Stamatakis: Pirates provide fans with consistency

By Nick Stamatakis

Chaos seems to rule the world.

Instead of life following a predictable pattern, we live in an… Chaos seems to rule the world.

Instead of life following a predictable pattern, we live in an age of constant upheaval. In just the past month, we have been greeted with unrest in North Africa seemingly out of nowhere and a combination of an earthquake and tsunami that nearly knocked out the world’s third-largest economy.

Even in sports, nothing seems to be firm, with No. 1-seeded basketball teams finding themselves subjected to the whims of fouls and No. 8-seeded opponents.

But in this age of change — where today’s iPhone 4 is tomorrow’s iPhone 3 — I have a secret to keeping my bearings straight; a constant in my life whose stability transcends all else.

And it just so happens it plays on the North Side.

I am speaking, of course, about the beloved Pittsburgh Pirates — the most constant team in baseball according to my own analysis of baseball records since 1993. For whereas the Yankees and Braves are consistently good and the Blue Jays are consistently average, the Pirates have taken the gold medal in terms of team consistency since I became a self-aware human being.

Now I know many of you naysayers, especially those of you sporting Phillies affections, might be thinking to yourself, “Yeah, constantly bad” — to you folks I say, “Real original.” You might be wondering how I can be defending a team whose record for the past 19 seasons makes Chris Brown look like a winner.

Well, remember to first consider baseball’s role as a sport in American culture. It isn’t a sport about excitement or daring feats of physical prowess like football, nor is it about roughness and overpowering your opponent through aggression like hockey. And despite many notable stars, the sport isn’t really about individual superstars in the way professional basketball is, either.

Instead — both through deliberative marketing moves by Major League Baseball and the sport’s age — baseball is treated and thought of as America’s pastime. Yes, there are high degrees of athleticism in some players and there are certainly very exciting moments, but overall the sport’s strength comes from its deep sense of tradition and its strong cultural connection to the past.

And since I have been a conscious, self-assertive Pirates fan since the mid-1990s, the team’s outstanding consistency has only made this connection stronger for me. It serves as a constant presence in my life. For instance, every year of my high school career the Pirates’ final loss total never surpassed five games. In the year of the highest S&P 500 average when adjusted for inflation since my birth — 2000 ­— the Pirates had 93 wins.

So instead of looking at Pirates fans as an oddity, remember that as a baseball team — as a connection to the past — they have been doing pretty well. Through national and personal changes in real life, I have always counted on the Pirates to give me the same thing.

This kind of consistency is good for Pirates fans, too. The World Health Organization lists rapid social change as a factor for bad mental health. What, then, could be healthier than experiencing the social and emotional calm that accompanies being a Pirates fan? Possibly nothing.

Now some of you same naysayers might believe all I am doing is rationalizing 18 terrible seasons of baseball. After all, very few fans use the World Health Organization to justify their team. But remember I am not justifying the Pirates as a sports team, but as a piece of baseball culture — a culture of consistency that makes its fandom unique.

I would absolutely trade this culture of consistency to get a World Series win, and I am not going to pretend I enjoy watching my team lose. It is also painful to watch Pirates fans older than myself — who remember the early ’90s or ’70s — endure these terrible seasons.

But when I am an old man, looking back at a long life and what will surely be an even longer list of Pirates World Series wins — not this year guys, we’ll probably only get the Pennant — I will be able to look back at the Pirates as a nice thread providing continuity to my formative years.

After all, real life already has enough ups and downs. Why would I want a team that only extends this reality?

E-mail Nick at [email protected] with any poetic ruminations you may have about the Pirates. Please don’t swear.