So I’m home in New York this week on vacation, and while I was at a Brooklyn Cyclones game minor league baseball game Thursday night (great time, by the way) I got to thinking about the most depressing team in sports.
I’m talking about the team that, year after year, absolutely pulverizes its fans hopes and dreams, the team that you constantly ask yourself why you bother rooting for. The team that doesn’t even seem to care about you at all, and cares about getting better even less.
For a long time, there were a lot of contenders. You had the Tampa Bay Bucs, who were horrendous for 20 years, but then they got better. You had the L.A. Clippers, who were run by the stupidest executives in sports, but managed to make the playoffs a few times at least.
You had the Arizona Cardinals, who draped themselves in fuility but managed to get to the Super Bowl last season, pleasing its sun-baked fans in Phoenix.
But I think it’s fair to say now, without equivocation, that there’s only one true deserving choice as, by far, the most depressing team in pro sports:
Ladies and gentlemen, step right up and meet your Pittsburgh Pirates! Seriously, meet them. Because I’m pretty damn sure you couldn’t pick them out of a lineup.
I’m not a Pirates fan, and never really followed them that closely. But I have to believe that to be a Pirates die-hard, circa 2009, has to be a soul-crushing experience. Your team is currently undergoing its 17th consecutive losing season. Seventeen! That, my friends, would be a record for consecutive crappiness in any major team sport.
The Pirates built a beautiful new ballpark in 2001, but decided to buck the trend started by the Orioles and Indians, and continue to stink right on from the old park to the new one.
If you’re a Pirates fan, there’s no sense getting attached to any good players on your team, because by the team they’re decent, they’ll be traded before they can make any real money. Nate McLouth, Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez are this year’s examples, but look into the past and you can find plenty of ex-Pirates stars (Jason Bay, Jason Kendall) who were dealt as they were in their prime.
Their drafting and scouting would have to improve to be called putrid. Do you realize this franchise has had a Top 12 pick in the MLB draft for the past 10 years, and has NO solid major league players in that mix to show for it? Let me know when you see Andrew McCutcheon, Paul Maholm, or Bryan Bullington tearing it up in the majors.
They can’t attract any quality free agents because, really, who the hell would want to play there? And they’ve got a cheapskate owner who is making a profit but won’t invest in the team.
Add it up, and I have to think rooting for Pittsbugh is like hoping Commack High School could beat the Yankees. Maybe Barry Bonds cursed them when he left as a free agent. Maybe the success of the Steelers (2 Super Bowls this decade) and Penguins (three Stanley Cups in the last 18 years) has forced the sports gods to at least give Pittsburgh one terrible team.
Whatever it is, I can’t imagine how sad it is to be a Pirates fan. My heart goes out to you poor souls. And the next time I bitch about my pathetic New York Jets, I’ll try to remember: It could be worse.
**On a much more uplifting note, my man Ryan Lochte had a fantastic performance and set a new world record Thursday in the 200 intermediate medley, swimming it in 1:54.10. Lochte, the pride of Port Orange, Fla., didn’t get to beat Michael Phelps in the race at the FINA World Championships in Rome, but he did avoid the upset plague this week: both Phelps and Aaron Peirsol, who NEVER lose, got beat in their races Tuesday and Wednesday. (Totally off the subject, everytime I write “FINA” I think of the world soccer organization FIFA, and I start giggling when I remember that their chief has the single worst name I’ve ever heard: Sepp Blatter. Seriously, that’s worse than Stubby Clapp.)
Lochte broke out his diamond-encrusted grill for the post-race press conference; he wore a similar one a few years ago at the Worlds. Guy’s just different, but he loves to have fun.
Anyway, Lochte’s got two events Friday, including the 200 meter backstroke, which might see he or Peirsol break another world record.
With Lochte, I’m thinking if he sets another world mark, he’ll break out the M.C. Hammer pants and a Carrot Top wig.