Congratulations, Pirates fans! Your favorite team continues to set new records in the field of misery and absolutely rewrite the book on how to build a failure of a franchise. Never before in the history of American professional sports (or hockey!) has a team finished seventeen consecutive seasons with a losing record...until now!
With a 4-2 loss to the Cubs on America's day of rest from hard labor, the Pirates lost their 83rd game of the year and clinched their seventeenth straight season with a stinkeroo record. They broke a tie with the 1933-1948 Phillies and now stand alone at the top of the heap.
But our favorite sad blogger Pat from WHYG,AVS? has put things into the proper perspective for pitiful Pittsburgh Pirates proponents: falling down makes the getting up that much better:
The common perception is that sports are all about winning. That if your team didn't win, you had a bad year and that there's nothing positive to be taken from it. I think that's hopelessly misguided. Sports are about everything that happens before your team wins, which is what gives value to the championship when it's celebrated.
This picture is beautiful because of all of the heartbreak we watched these two men endure together on their way to having it taken. And this one still makes my heart skip a beat because of the way this one made my heart sink. After years of watching the Penguins and Steelers fall short and sharing in the frustration and pain and heartbreak with my friends and family, I knew what winning meant to them and to me.
Think about it: for most of Pat's life, his team hasn't just been a loser, it's been the definition of losers. The Pirates are in the Parthenon of piss-poor performance yet Pat continues to not only follow the team, he devotes a huge percentage of his life to writing about 'em. Perhaps the fans of some other miserable teams like the Orioles or Mets should take a cue from Pat and have a little faith in the team they follow. At least none of those teams have such a poor streak under their belts (although the Orioles with 13 consecutive losing seasons have a good chance of tying, if not breaking, this record).
I've been a Yankee fan my whole life; the team has provided me unmatched joy that I could never repay, even with every $10 I spend on shitty Cuban sandwiches without pickles or mustard at Yankee Stadium (seriously, how can you serve a Cuban sandwich without pickles or mustard?) But from the year I was born until the year I turned 18, there were no World Series titles, there were but two playoff appearances, and I watched my favorite player retire early with a bad back. I'm not saying I suffered in the 80s, but I do vividly remember spending the summer of 1986 at Jewish day camp full of Mets fans. Yecch.
If the Pirates fans want a more recent example of bad teams turned good, look no further than the Rays, who stockpiled young, cheap talent during ten straight losing season (and nine in last place) before making a run at the World Series. Pirates GM Neal Huntington espouses the same ideals: lose a lot of games, gain a lot of talent; Pittsburgh may not win the pennant in the next few years but I'd be surprised to see them not contend in 2010.
So, unless you're a Royals fan, keep your chin up and realize that sometimes it takes seventeen years of suckiness before you can celebrate something special.