Three months ago, I decided to assemble a website because I wanted to document the experiences I was having in Pittsburgh based on a growing hunch that there has been no better time to live here than right now. Since making that decision and starting YinZSTER, the authentic experiences have continued to grow alongside the town’s accolades. Floating duckling announcements have led to yarning bridge announcements have led to praise from food critics I’ve never even heard of. For all of the reasons listed in this momentous article I am convinced that we actually are the smartest city in America. There’s a lot to be proud of, and it’s all been earned over a long time by innumerable great people who care a lot about this town. But with all this pomp and circumstance, there is another as of yet unspeakable subject bubbling to the surface this summer, which will test our pride and our intellect in a way that I’m not sure we are prepared to surmount. That something, ladies and gentlemen, is The Potential Pittsburgh Pirates Collapse of 2013.
No, DMK! NO! HOW COULD YOU?! Damn you! I can’t belie -
Citizens of Pittsburgh: enough! You are smarter than any other collective group of urbanites in the United States of America. Pull off the blinders! Rip off the band-aid! Some other clichéd euphemism about facing reality! There is an elephant in the room that we need to address head-on, and we need to do it right now.
Look yinz guys, I am not delivering anything remotely novel here. There is a historical precedent of failure that we are working against. How historical? Well for one, I just described a 53-32 baseball team as an elephant in the room and you knew exactly what I was talking about. I am also not delivering any new information by stating that this year’s Pirates squad is better, deeper and more promising than the rosters that fell apart in each of the last two seasons. As I write this article, The Bucs have the best record in all of baseball and you don’t get there by total accident. During the past two seasons, we yinzers spent June and July asking each other, “even though they’re 16-games over .500 right now, would you consider breaking the streak by just one game a success?” I don’t hear that question this season – it’s not just us that believe this team is actually great, it’s science (calm down CMU nerds). That’s a very good thing, and I can promise you that few are happier about that than I am. But we are a group of enlightened individuals, not Portland. We must consider the facts before we throw ourselves into the self-loathing spiral of watching a 2-3 Pitt football team host Old Dominion at Heinz Field in October, still wondering what happened to our Buccos in August and September.
I don’t fault you, Pittsburgh. I know this is a hard topic to consider and we’d prefer to ignore it. The sun is here for its three month visit, people are outside, hipsters are unveiling open-air bars all over Butler Street, and there’s an excitement about the overall direction of the city. It’s easy to get caught up and hide from reality, even when you know better. A small percentage of of us are dismissing the past few years as null and void, outsiders are telling us how to react, and many others are paranoid to the point that they’d rather ignore the team altogether until some arbitrary date. No one is comfortable, and none of us are being rational. This irrationality is really just a condition of a familiar feeling that could make Ross Ohlendorf think like Mat Latos, and that feeling is new-found love.
Two years ago, we hit our growth spurt, came into our own and finally found a girl that noticed us just in time for graduation parties. It felt great, and we didn’t even bother to kick the tires to determine if things were real or not; we just knew that something was finally here. No one wanted to tell us things were destined to fail; why break our hearts by means of glaring, overwhelming evidence? They wanted it for us, too. You like The Arcade Fire and she likes Taylor Swift? That’s cute! You understand the realities of climate change and she drives an Expedition? Hey, opposites attract! You have a pet calf and she ordered veal? Instagram that shit! Flipping through the photo albums and looking back, it’s no wonder the relationship didn’t work. We spent the fall and winter of 2011 laughing it off with our friends, telling ourselves that we knew she wasn’t the one, telling ourselves that we were better off without her and enjoying our prospects for future success elsewhere. We told everyone that we weren’t affected, but deep down we considered joining online dating services. We all wondered when we’d find that kind of spark again.
And then we found it immediately. Was it just a rebound? Our friends seemed to think so. In fact, our friends thought she was an awful lot like the last one, but we didn’t listen.
“To Hell with them, I know what this is – they don’t know her like I know her! Yeah, she says stupid things when we’re out in public but that’s not the real her behind closed doors, it’s just a front to keep up with the pressures of societal norms! No one wants to see us happy; they just enjoy seeing us down forever because it makes them look better!”
We knew they were probably right and that we should be using more caution, but we were too wrapped up in our emotions to use the renown intellectual capacity with which we as a unit have been blessed. This manifested itself into rebellion: Ha! I told you. 10-over. Ha! I told you! 13-over. Ha! I told you! 16-over! City of Champions, baby! You know the rest. KABOOM.
“It’s not you, it’s me” – The 2012 Pirates
She’s gone, she’s not coming back, and she’s not even going to give you the dignity of a reason why. Hate to say I told you so. Have a nice winter; I hope you love perpetual gloom.
And now here we are (man, we must be a catch). We are in love with the Pirates again, in the throes of The Honeymoon Phase where, whether we’d like to admit it openly or not, not one thing could deter us from the fact that this time it will be different. Though by-in-large we act like we aren’t putting the cart before the horse, we would be shocked if this one went crazy and relapsed with an ex on East Carson Street. Shocked. After all, she likes the same music that we do – right? Pittsburgh: love is not rational. Just because we like her better than the last two (and believe me, we should) does not mean that she can’t break our hearts. Know that she is entirely capable of making us repeat the following two classic statements, which you and I have each made more than once:
“that’s it, I’m done dating forever/that’s it, I’m done with baseball forever”
The necessary reality check is to diagnose and review this for what it really is – summer love. I’m not saying that it won’t grow into real love, and I’m not saying that it won’t make you go into some sad one-man bar crawl through The Mexican War Streets (which I’ve done, but I can’t remember if it was due to the Pirates or an ex). Because this could become either, and that’s why love is kinda the point of existing. What I am simply suggesting is that we use some traditional metrics to analyze the validity of this match component-by-component, identifying both the positives and the negatives of our current situation. Some things are good and some things are bad, but all of them scare the shit out of us because we’ve been scorned for twenty years. At the end of the component review, maybe we can come out of this feeling surer of what we have at our grasp. What is it that attracts us so much about these Pirates and what should we expect from them? Well…
Huntingdon and Hurdle have co-signed on this roster and have together created marked incremental improvement. Have they built something that can sustain itself over a full season for the first time?
Though I’ve never been burned on this one personally, I’ve decided to put it first because from what I’ve heard it is that important. So seriously, listen to me here, because if you don’t you are destined for the slow side-to-side headshake that results every time you go to buy something online and the address auto-fills to your ex’s apartment from the times you used to send her thoughtful gifts. You need to be aware of the mother – the apple does not fall far from the tree. If the mother is cray, don’t come crying to me about all the cray things the daughter is putting you through. No one home. Dig? Dig. Okay then, let’s proceed. This time around, we love the mom. She’s charismatic, wise, strangely subsists entirely on a diet of chewing gum, and genuinely cares about our relationship. She is ardent in our pursuit of happiness and insistent that we better ourselves. Ardent is one word, and intense is another. Sometimes when we watch momma bear around our love interest we wonder if she is too intense and even at times smothering. We know how mothers and daughters can quarrel, and we have never seen that between these two, but we do have to hope that there isn’t too much pressure applied by the maternal figure and we have to hope that it doesn’t wear her out. In prior relationships, we have to feel a little bit suspicious that was the case. Keep a watchful eye on the mother.
Pseudo-rookie starter LHP Edward Scissor Hands I mean Jeff Locke, at 8-1 with a 2.12 ERA, is using a high-80′s/low-90′s fastball to pitch as effectively as anyone else in The National League. But without overpowering stuff, can this continue through September?
Oh, it’s awesome now, and she’s attractive in that unconventional way that you just can’t quite put your finger on. She’s a little bit awkward, but awkward is totally in these days and it gives her a lot more character than any other cookie cutter, run-of-the-mill interaction you might have with some Stepford Wife you met at Mario’s.
I can’t believe she’s wearing that – does she not know, or does she just not care?
She likes art and documentaries and knows about restaurants that we don’t know about yet. It’s got our attention and no one is going to blame us for that. We’ve found a veritable She’s All That-variety diamond in the rough here, and while it sickens me that I pulled that rom com reference right out of thin air, you know it’s completely apt (seriously, wtf 90’s…). We’re super-excited about her because we didn’t know we were into this type of thing and she has dazzled. But you know who else dazzles? Conventionally hot chicks that do it for us in ways we completely understand, that’s who. Shouldn’t we be a little leery before we dive in full-bore that this may be fleeting? That our heads may be back on a swivel if this is just a novelty and it wears off? Are we finally mature enough for this, or could we be on the path to another awkward James McDonald-esque breakup by August? After all, she’s coy, but everyone knows that coy does not a trophy wife make.
AJ Burnett has become one of the most beloved Pirates we’ve seen in the last 20 years by paring at times ridiculous stuff with a daunting #STFD mean streak. What can we expect from him as the clubhouse leader while the pennant race tightens?
She is not vanilla. She speaks her mind and is not one bit afraid to put us in our place. We love that about her, because nothing is sexier than a girl with an edge and strong, insightful opinions. She may even get into a fight with some chick that looks at her the wrong way at the bar, which would be particularly awesome if it happened at Roller-skate Night at Belvedere’s. We’ve been waiting so long for someone like this! But, I’ve heard… and like, not that it matters because we all have our pasts and stuff, but… I’ve heard… that in the past… when some of her relationships hit a bump in the road, she got a little too edgy and a little too stressed out. I’ve heard that even though she’s one of the best girls we’ve ever seen in this city, and she totally is, that she can lose sight of that and unravel. Like, tension all the time. “You said that, no you said that! There’s a nail in your head, it’s not about the nail in my head!” I mean, we like a girl that can put us in our place and (chuckles, nudges) lord knows we need it from time to time, but not in front of the people we work with! Earlier I wondered if we had matured enough to embrace her awkward side. Conversely, has she matured enough to just be herself and let us buy into her for who she is?
Russell Martin (defensively) and Jordy Mercer (offensively) have been dramatic improvements to gaping holes that have been in existence here since The Bush Administration. The first Bush Administration. Are these improvements at two of the most important positions on the field sustainable?
The past two times around, we’ve been victimized, embarrassed, and walked (cough, run) all over. We couldn’t stand up for ourselves because we weren’t yet equipped to do so; there were some things about us that we needed to change in order to find what we truly needed. Heading into this season we thought,
“Maybe it’s just us? Maybe, maybe we deserve this. It’s not like we’ll ever be able to afford the finer things that all the other rich kids have. I mean are we really all that great anyway that we should find someone with everything we’re looking for? Should we settle? Yeah, we should just play the hand that we’ve been dealt and be thankful for what we have.”
No, Pittsburgh! Never settle! Never effing settle! How would that line of reasoning ever make sense?! Settle for someone you don’t want while you’re in your prime so that you can pretend to be happy for as long as the miracles of modern science can keep you alive and unfulfilled?! Get out of here with that! Um, whoops. Sorry. Uh, sorry about that… Kinda got away from me there, didn’t it. Hmmm…
I’m just going to continue thusly: this summer, we’ve realized we don’t have to settle with missing pieces anymore and that maybe we do have a chance to find the one and it rawks our proverbial sawks. It’s a pretty hopeful feeling, isn’t it? It is way more refreshing than that embarrassingly lame mist machine the d-bag Reds have for Kentuckians to waddle through in their outfield concourse, and it’s a reason to make us believe in our 2013 love affair.
Wow, first of all, how about that last component? I’m as startled as you are. Lots of angst there. Prettttttty much an S show, really. I’ll have to work on that and get back to you…
Pedro Alvarez is straight mercking balls, has the most home runs of any third baseman in the NL, and was just named NL Player of the Week. He has more power tools than Tim Taylor, but is also one of the streakiest players in baseball – which one are we going to get?
The classic scene: Your roommate comes back from a date a little bit past tipsy.
Pittsburgh: “Hey dude, how was it? You’re looking pretty exuberant”
Pittsburgh’s Roommate: “Man, it was awesome. She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s cute and bro we even like the same music!”
I’ve never understood the emphasis we place on this one but after the last two girls I’ve dated, eff it man, I’m all ears. You see, the problem is that sometimes liking the same music means that you’re both a little bit, to paraphrase Shakespeare, bat-shit crazy. So, while we are excited to find someone on the same artistic and musical plane that we are, that plane includes the likes of Crystal Castles and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. So, either it’s going to be an epically great thing that we like the same music or it’s going to lead to a total psychotic break that, to paraphrase Shakespeare again, is a cluster of titanic proportions. In either event, it’s going to be extreme and we are going to feel completely bewildered. But in many ways, maybe it does come down to this. There is huge upside here, and we get excited at the prospect of analyzing the depth and darkness of Alice Glass lyrics with a beautiful young lady. At the same time, we have to be a little afraid of the possibility that we will be dodging chards of broken plates as she’s screaming Alice Glass lyrics at us from the top of her lungs. We are getting one or the other with Component 5 – there is no real precedent for anything in between.
Andrew McCutchen is one of the premiere players in the game, but in the past the burden of carrying the team has weighed him down as the summer days got shorter. The lineup is deeper this year, so is this a trend he’ll be able to buck?
One disappointing byproduct of the courtship process is that it’s hardly possible to live up to the expectations created while we are trying to woo one another. You can only use your best foot for so long before you start to get a stress fracture. She may not actually think all of our jokes are funny (scoff), and we may forget to hold open a door or pull out a chair here or there. A sign of true compatibility is to be able to appreciate one another for who we are well past the parlor tricks (I can’t believe I left this Rubik’s Cube on my table again!), background checking (let’s be honest, Facebook stalking), and perpetual pleasantries. The last two girls have seemed like the perfect fit for the first half of summer, only to leave us wanting more as our relationships dissolved. In reality, maybe we were just getting very heavy doses of her best asset (her, smile obviously) and not paying attention to much else. We found out that a pretty smile can only take you so far, and if you’ve been in any weddings recently you know the following two things:
1) after a while you are in enough photos that your cheeks are too tired to allow you to form any semblance of a smile anymore
2) cookie tables are bomb.com
In 2013, the courtship process has been a little bit more realistic and actually leads us to believe that things could even get… better? She’s been a little bit guarded, and we haven’t seen too much of the enormous smile. Short of coming into possession of a crystal ball, we won’t know how this will work out, but if we look ourselves in the mirror we’d have to believe that chemistry is actually building this time and we are on the uptick.
Starling Marte is one of the most exciting players in The NL. The plate is still sizzling, but with as much baseball as he’s been playing over the past year, how much steak is left on it?
She’s a babe for days, man. I’m not a car guy, but she’s got that sports car vibe about her – sleek and sexy, with the perfect frame. By the way, I am well aware that this analogy is rapidly becoming more and more dangerous and believe me, I’m as uncomfortable as you are. But when you watch her, you can’t help but think of the possibilities. Know what I’m sayin’? You know what I’m sayin’! Yep, there goes that line, shit just got real weird… Oh well. When she moves, it is awe-inspiring and she has everyone’s undivided attention. We’re just like:
“Yeah, we see you looking Cardinals fans. Go ahead suckas, you can buy her a drink. Are things going well? Gonna make a move? 3-2-1, the boyfriend bomb. Yinz can have Matt Adams, she’s with us.”
But Pittsburgh…Pittsburgh. Listen now and listen good. It’s so easy to fall way too hard for the flashing lights at the expense of the substance. Do you know where that gets you? That gets you de-friended on Facebook every time you have a little argument. That gets you time she spends with other guys just to make you jealous. That gets you questionable outfits in front of your friends and family at formal events. It ain’t good, yinz! Face value sex appeal is here today, gone tomorrow. Are you still going to wanna be around her when she’s old and gray? Shit – Del Rey is on to us! She’s been working really hard to get our attention, so take a close look at her and ask yourself – will the sex appeal be able to hang around long enough to weather the storms?
Neil Walker has had a serviceable season to this point. Are the Pirates able to win with a steady Walker, or are they depending on him to reignite to the form we’ve seen in his first three seasons?
If Marte is the little black dress component, Walker is the girl next door component (sorry Nels). She’s steady, consistent, and familiar. She knows where we are from, gets our friends and family, and knows about the time we almost lit our neighbor’s wreath on fire at the end of the cul-de-sac and then ran down the middle of a snow-covered street to our buddy’s basement. We are idiots, and she knows that as well as anyone else. With her soothing guidance in the picture, we can see a future that makes sense through a stability that only she could make possible for us. She’s not the flashiest, but we can always count on her to bail us out. It’s enough to keep us comfortable, maybe even to keep us satisfied, but it is it enough to take us to the promise land? With all that she gives us, is it possible that we need her to light the ignition to let us know it’s finally okay to go out there and pursue our real goals? If that is what we need, is she too jeans-and-a-t-shirt for the task? I didn’t mean for this to be a paragraph about E.D., but it turns out it could definitely be read that way, so let’s just move on please. And as always, if you have an erection that lasts longer than four hours, please consult your doctor.
The Sanchez/Jones Platoon has given the Pirates the chance to win. The RF Platoon has been notably lackluster. Are either of them going to generate a tangible impact this summer?
Sure, our eyes may stray from time-to-time, but men have a natural proclivity to wander so get off our case, okay? Ick, sorry. Blargh, Pat Robertson. In general, we have to appreciate the flexibility we’ve gotten from this bunch.
Hey, I don’t think it’s gonna work out tonight. Okay!
Hey, I need to go another direction tonight, hope you don’t mind. Okay!
Hey, sorry it took me two days to return your text message, I’ve just been like really, super busy at work and my battery died and… Okay!
Well, maybe not okay. It’s great (for us) that we can go out drinking with our friends and stuff, but maybe we need you to throw a right cross every now and then to wake us up. Ya gotta show us that you want us, that you mean business, and that we can’t come home with Erotica matchbooks and lipstick on our collars but still convince you we were having a rotisserie chicken at Giant Eagle Market District. Do they give out matchbooks at Erotica? We’ll take as much slack as you can give us. But you have to wonder that if it’s not you to show us that you’re serious, who else are we supposed to learn it from?
The Shark Tank has been one of baseball’s best stories, particularly Melancon and Grilli. The Shark Tank has also been worked hard early, particularly Melancon and Grilli. Will they be able to hold up?
It’s not like we are going to underplay the significance of the ole’ nightcap. When we’ve executed a strong start to the night with this one, we’ve been amply rewarded when we’ve dropped her off at the front door in the wee hours of the morning. There are so many ways in this town to set up a nice evening – thankfully we do not need to be a Casanova to show our girl a good time. Maybe we’ll get some expensive tapas, maybe a craft cocktail at Tender or Bar Marco. Which food trucks are going to be outside Bayardstown tonight? There is more than one way to skin a cat, my friends, and we’ve skinned a shit ton of cats so far this year. That’s a lot of stops at the front door and a lot of invites in to “check out the apartment” or “come have some coffee”. DMK is not one to kiss and tell, but rest-assured we have experienced our share of inspiring performances, creative foreplay in the 8th (dear God, what have I done?) and have been seldom disappointed with our results in the 9th. This is getting really dangerous again, so maybe it’s just best to let Steve Blass explain it for us. But sometimes, Pittsburgh, you can have too much of a good thing. You can go to the well too many times. You can take too many stops on the trolley, which I don’t even think is a real phrase, but it’s better than me making a sexual innuendo involving Mike Zagurski so let’s just go with it. The point being, I hope we don’t overdo this and wear out the allure, but I’m a dude so I’m not going to make any concessions and am just going to hope for the best.
If after reading this entire article you believe I have two friends that are ridiculous enough to assign me this task, I read a passage at a Catholic wedding mass two weeks ago and it went a little suttin like this:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…
You’re familiar. Along with being omniscient God is also apparently a pretty impressive marketer, as somehow in his Love for Humans sales literature he left out a few minor details like, “love is also irrational, will send you into major downward spirals if not handled carefully, and will drive you crazy if you overanalyze it”. I can only assume he’s leaving these items as a mess for project management to smooth over in the execution phase. But as we humans have come to find out, you can’t reason with love when you find it and you’re going to have a hell of a time convincing yourself of how to alter it when it crosses your path. I’ve tried to protect myself and hedge against love in the past, but over time have come to realize that we love for a reason that is beyond my intellect. We’ve found a girl worth pursuing this summer, and yet we are still standing here with one toe in the water. Let me ask you this: what’s the point of going through all of the pain if you aren’t willing to let yourself be happy when you have the chance? Why watch the Pirates for 20 losing seasons and hide from them when they are 20 games over .500? 2011 and 2012 have left us with songs we don’t want to hear anymore and restaurants that we’d prefer not to return to, but guess what? Opus One and Drusky are still bringing fresh acts to the city and you can follow like 25 food trucks on Twitter regardless of where you are on any evening. It’s a new year.
Our win total is going to surpass Momma Hurdle’s gum-per-game (gpg), Locke is going to continue to dominate awkwardly, Burnett is going to continue to intimidate angrily, Martin is going to throw everyone out for the rest of the season, Alvarez is going to hit 40 more homeruns and 12 of them are going into the river on the fly, Cutch is going to hit .936 like he did in June of 2012, Marte (and Cole) are going to continue being electrifying freak shows, Walker is going 5-5 twice, someone is going to stabilize right field and the Shark Tank is going to continue to chomp on anything that swims. Let’s enjoy the ride. If you can’t get on board with that, then I feel sorry for you. If you can, then I look forward to raising a glass with you this fall at the parade… or on The War Streets.