Thursday, October 3, 2013

NL Wild Card Game

Some events are special because of the drama within the event.

The baseball game itself was never really in doubt; the Pirates got out early, got an extremely strong start from Francisco Liriano, and added on.

Some events are special because of the atmosphere surrounding the event.

The baseball game in question was the first playoff game at PNC Park and the first playoff game of any sort since 1992 for the Pirates.

I've never been part of a group therapy session...until Tuesday night.  At that time, I was part of a group of 40,474 people experiencing catharsis of their baseball souls.  Hearing that many people cheer in unison (and in one instance before a Neil Walker at-bat, everyone stop making noise simultaneously), to the point that they may have influenced the mental state of Johnny Cueto, was inspiring.

The section that I was seated in had a very enthusiastic fan, dressed in full uniform (complete with high socks).  After every out, every Pirate hit, every Pirate walk, he would ritualistically get up from him seat and walk up the aisle giving high-fives to every fan in sight.  I've never high-fived a thunderclap, but I now can imagine what the feeling must be like.  And he did this, without fail, the entire game.  He would dutifully trudge up the steps, high-fiving in the same exact order, the same people.  It was his job for the night and he did it well.

The left field rotunda was completely packed.  Presumably, it was three or four deep along the railing.  On Stubhub that morning, standing room only tickets were going for $191.  The SRO's contributed to this game being the largest attendance in PNC Park history.

Naturally, the food vendors were completely overwhelmed.  I very nearly missed the first pitch as I was waiting for my burger and fries for 25 minutes.  I didn't really care that much, because nothing was going to ruin this night.  Not even a Pirate loss, which didn't happen thanks to a 6-2 win, would have spoiled this night.

The Pirates won 94 games and were in the playoffs, even the bizarre 1 game Wild Card game is a playoff game, so everything else about this season from there on out is a gravy train on biscuit wheels.

The Pirates now go on to play the Cardinals in a "real" playoff series best-of-5.  I like the Pirates chances, especially in the pitching matchups besides Game 1 against Wainwright.  Are they underdogs?  Sure.  But the narrative of the Pirates has allowed them to capture the hearts of the rest of the baseball viewing public (aside from those fans of teams still in the playoffs).

The gut punch of a finish to the 2012 season, and the 19 losing seasons that preceded that one, seem like hazy fever dream memories at this point.  What I saw on Tuesday was the burial of all those bad memories and the beginning of an era that should see at least five years of success (meaning non-losing seasons, not all playoffs) for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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