The best season for sports

Michael Moses

Autumn is the best time for sports, hands down. You’ve got the NFL season up and running, and college campuses going crazy Saturday afternoons for their football teams. Hockey is just getting underway, with the Canadians assuming their positions on their couches. Basketball fans are obligated to watch the NBA preseason as they anticipate the regular season’s tip-off.

And then there’s something called baseball? It’s supposedly “America’s pastime?” I don’t know. I’ve never seen it. You see, I’m from a little town called Pittsburgh.

In my lifetime, I’ve never seen baseball in the fall. I never knew what it was like to pray for “Mr. October” to come back in black and gold. The initials “NLDS” or “NLCS” never meant anything to me. World Series? The only World Series I know is in poker.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are the laughing stock of baseball. Jay Mariotti, a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune who regularly appears on the ESPN talk show “Around the Horn,” once joked Pittsburgh was a “football and hockey town with a good AAA baseball team.” Mind you, he was born in Pittsburgh.

If you were to ask a Pittsburgh native what the Steelers are doing in, say, June, I’m sure they’d be able to name at least one timely fact. If you ask the same for baseball, most likely, the response will be “I don’t know.”

The Buccos haven’t had a winning season since it’s National League Championship Series in 1992, a streak of 17 seasons. Seventeen long, losing seasons. It’s the longest in any of the United States’ four major professional sports leagues. And honestly, it doesn’t look to end anytime soon.

It’s unfair to the fans. Time and time again, the franchise itself nets a hefty amount of Benjamins. PNC Park is gorgeous, easily top 5 in the majors. Merchandise continues to sell as the losses continue to pile up. So when are we going to use our money on a current star? Not a prospect for years down the road. We want wins, and we want them now.

It doesn’t make sense. I move to Kent, where there are baseball fans galore. Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, even New Yorkers who root for the Mets and Yankees. And here I stand, lost and confused. One day, someone asked me where I was watching the game. It was an idle Wednesday. All I could think of was, “What game?” Turns out they were talking about baseball. “People actually sit down and watch their teams on TV? Huh?”

Even for Cleveland, baseball hasn’t been good as of late. Their final record of 65-97 wasn’t much better than Pittsburgh’s 62-99. Manager Eric Wedge and his entire staff were fired at season’s end, and now the Indians are stuck at where the Browns currently are. A second rebuilding project for the city.

I know the Indians won their division title in 2007, but if you ask their fans, it seems like that was years and years ago. To think that at one point in time the Indians had the following roster, and did not win the pennant, is crushing: Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizguel, Jim Thome, David Justice, Sandy Alomar, Marquis Grissom, Brian Giles, Matt Williams and Tony Fernandez. That’s like the Yankees of present day.

The bottom line is baseball needs to start meaning something to this region again. Sure, it’s America’s pastime, but that mean we need to live in the past as fans. I guess I’m stuck rooting for the Steelers and Penguins again.

But hey, I’d say that’s not too bad.

Michael Moses