in the fall of 1992 i was a high school junior, with a bad case of acne and a curly mullet. you could find me living in central kentucky, having moved there from western pennsylvania. i held true to my black and yellow roots, resisting the cincinatti affiliation of most of the natives. at any given moment you could find me at my church, as i was very involved in my active youth group, or listening to rod stewart sing "have i told you lately" while i dreamed of whoever i was infatuated with at the moment, or, during the baseball playoffs, you could find me either watching or listening to the games, because the pirates were involved.
that fall they were facing the braves. who were good, but annoying, what with their "tomahawk chop" and the constant shots of ted turner in the first row. enough already. i remember watching that game, admiring the way doug drabek, who also rocked a sweet mullet, was mastering the braves lineup, including former pirates rafael belliard and sid bream, who were traitors, as far as i was concerned.
the bucs were leading 2-0 in the 9th, thanks to jay bell and andy van slyke and orlando merced. and then it all fell apart. there were walks. there was an error by the usually perfect chico lind. the wheels just fell off right there as the atlanta crowd tomahawk-chopped the pirates into something they could not imagine at the time. it ended with that francisco cabrera base hit to barry bonds, and slow-as-molasses sid bream coming around from second to slide just pass the tag of mike lavalliere. the former bucco had driven the dagger into my heart. i cried.
i didn't want to go to school the next morning. i just wanted to sit and stare. like andy van slyke.
little did i know just how bad it was.
that one half-inning set in motion the worst streak in professional sports in north-american history. not just baseball. we're talking everything from tennis to tiddly-winks. the pirates failed to have a winning season the next year in 1993, still reeling from the terrible loss, and the players that exited pittsburgh that off-season. and they lost more than they won again in 1994. and '95. and '96. and so on. for 20 straight years. think about that for a moment. twenty years. i was 17 when they last had a winning season.
i am 37 now. living in pennsylvania, after some time spent in a few different states. high school is a distant memory, with my life defined more now by my family, my children, and my job. and yet, as we move into the fall, one thing is reminiscent of that autumn back in 1992: it is baseball playoff time, and the pirates are in it. and i will be watching. whether they win or lose isn't the big issue for me at this point, but just that they have ended this terrible tailspin, that they have found a way to overcome the perpetual collapse of the last 20 years, a mess made with several ingredients: ineptitude, greed, carelessness, laziness, despair, doubt, and much more.
but whatever dish had been cooking for 20 years is now floating down the monongahela river. along with the bad taste in the collective mouths of pittsburgh baseball fans. the last couple years have shown glimpses of hope, and this year the team finally broke through, demonstrating talent, teamwork and tenacity along the way.
and the calendar can finally turn. it is no longer 1992. its now buctober again. 2013.
moral of the story: whatever failure in your life seems to own or define you, and for however long, doesn't have to define you indefinitely. you can overcome it. there is hope. no matter how bad and bleak it seems.
second moral of the story: sid bream is a traitor, and i hope he chokes on his moustache tonight when the pirates beat the reds. just kidding. sort of.
third moral of the story: LET'S GO BUCS!