Pittsburgh: City of Champions and Spoiled Fans by @PandaPSU

(Photo courtesy of CNN.com)

There are not a whole lot of places that I enjoy being in more than Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I grew up in Johnstown, and spent much of my childhood visiting Pittsburgh landmarks and attending various sporting events. I have a real love for the city and the people that encompass it. That is why I am so sad to see an illness spread through the city and much of the people that inhabit it. There seems to be no cure for it. It is spread very easily through person-to-person contact, specifically through speaking to others. What is this mystery illness you ask? SCF. No, not Stanley Cup Final, which uses the same acronym, but rather Spoiled City Fanbase.

(Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.com)

I was eight whenever the Pirates were really good in the early 90s. I have fond memories of seeing games at Three Rivers and watching Van Slyke, Bonilla, Bonds, Drabek, etc. Then the city clearly suffered with one of the worst baseball teams and franchises for the next 20+ seasons. They finally broke out last year and it was pure magic. PNC Park is one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country. To finally be able to see it full is certainly a sight to see, and it is something that should happen with regularity. Nothing will be able to beat that National League wildcard game against the Reds last season. The park was electric. The fans, dressed in pure black, made one horrifying scene for the opposition. Who can forget C-U-E-T-O being slowly screamed by the sold out crowd? This season? After a lackluster start to this season with the Pirates starting 16-21, many fans have called for Nutting’s job. Some have said that Huntingdon was not aggressive enough in the offseason. A game in which McCutchen went 2-3 but flied out in the ninth inning brought on the “Cutch is not clutch” talk. It is sad.

(Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.com)
 In 2005 I was just finishing up college. After the Steelers went 16-2 in Roethlisberger’s rookie season, the Steelers were having an OK season in 2005 but looked like they would miss the playoffs. They then ran off four straight wins to make the playoffs, and eventually won their next four as well to win their first Super Bowl in 26 years. That night I took to the streets of State College to party with the rest of the Steelers fans in the area. We ran through the streets. We celebrated at the local bars together. It was like we were a bunch of old friends seeing each other for the first time in a number of years. Similar celebrations happened all through the city of Pittsburgh. Then three years later the Steelers won one for the other thumb. Since then, the Steelers have missed the playoffs three of the last five years and had a loss to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV. You can regularly find folks complaining about Big Ben trying to do too much, Mike Tomlin losing his team and not knowing how to win the big game against the team like the Patriots, or perhaps saying that Dick LeBeau’s defense has been passed by today’s game of football. It is embarrassing.

(Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

That brings me to our beloved Penguins. After back-to-back Stanley Cups in ’91 and ’92, the Penguins toiled through the next 12 or 13 years with little success. A few playoff appearances and one Eastern Conference Final appearance was a disappointment to a franchise with star players. It saw the team go through two bankruptcies before being saved by Lemieux. Finally in 2005 Sidney Crosby came to the Pens. The following season Evgeni Malkin came to Pittsburgh. The city, the team, and the arena were revitalized. There was still the issue of money, and the team looked very likely to be relocated to an area in Canada, or perhaps Kansas City. Persistence paid off, however, and in March of 2007, Lemieux made a formal announcement of a new arena deal and that the team would be staying in Pittsburgh. The upstart Pens lost early in the playoffs that season before making the Stanley Cup Final in 2008, and ultimately winning in 2009. Since then the team has had excitement and tribulations. Mainly regular season excitement with a lot of tribulations in the postseason and on the injury front. After going up on the Rangers 3-1 in the second round, the series is now tied 3-3 with a pivotal game 7 tomorrow night in Pittsburgh. After the loss last night, many fans were calling for Bylsma to be fired. Others when placing blame, said don’t forget this team was put together by Shero. Also, where has our captain been? How can you be the league’s best player when you aren’t even the team’s best player? Many called for Crosby to be benched earlier in these playoffs. Others have said that Fleury is a bust and is unreliable. It’s sad and embarrassing.

(Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)

Look, I am not trying to say things are perfect. As a fan, you can look at every team in Pittsburgh and wish for more. You can sit during every game and be a pessimist. You can question every decision. Where is the fun in that? Sometimes things need to be said and it is your right as a fan to say those things. But if you are just looking for something to be wrong and the next person to blame, why watch? Sometimes we need to remember what it was like to be a kid and watch these events. Take in the moment. Whatever happens, good or bad, take it all in and leave your voice at the Park, Field, or Center. Half of the time the crowd feels like they are sleeping through the games at Consol. Why? Because their team isn’t performing, some will say. The team finished second in the Eastern Conference this season with over 500 man games lost due to injury. Overall, they have performed. They just have not performed to the expectations set by the fans. That is, they have not won a cup every year. I do not know what will happen tomorrow night, but I do think the Pens find a way to win and advance. The only thing I can ask from all of you is to get your SCF shots before the game to stave off the Spoiled City Fanbase Syndrome and cheer on your team for possibly one last time this season. Look at the bright side though, if the team loses tomorrow night, you will have three months to be miserable before you can talk about how miserable next season will be.
Share on Google Plus

About Jim Meinecke

    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment


  1. I think Pittsburgh fans are very intelligent and well invested in our teams. Because of this, we KNOW what our teams are capable of. When they don't play up to their potential, not the fans expectations, fans become frustrated. Sure, there may be a pocket of fans that will call for everyone to be fired, but what fan base doesn't have that? As for the Penguins, Pittsburgh fans are frustrated with a team led by the league wide claim of the best two players in the NHL. Of course there have been injuries, and no one person should be responsible for a team's successes and failures... but if they don't perform to their potential we KNOW they can, for multiple postseasons, there's a tendency to be blue-balled amd frustrated. It's only natural. Pittsburgh fans are still the best, and we support our teams fully. We expect a lot BECAUSE we know we have the best players and teams. They just need to live up to it when it counts. Expect an outpouring of support from the fans at home for a do-or-die Game 7. It doesn't get any bigger than this. LET'S GO PENS!!!

  2. Cannot possibly agree with you more. I say the exact same thing over & over again. I have Steeler season tickets and have never missed a Steeler game of any kind that has been played at Heinz Field & the streak extends back to 3 Rivers Stadium. I've been present for 4 losing AFC Championship games and 2 winners. I only cried after 1 of them..LOL. Last season, for the Steeler's home opener, the two seats to the left & right of me were empty. My son was working for the Steelers at the time & came home that night and said, " Mom, our fans suck."At the second home game, a Sunday night game, Bear's fans literally took over Heinz Field. they outcheered everyone & all congregated behind the Bear's bench at the end of the game. I know this because I don't EVER leave a game before it ends. Not football, not hockey, not baseball. I don't have a lot of money & when I spend it on a sporting event, I'm staying for the whole thing. Win or lose. These are my teams, my guys, my heart. Do I get mad, do I get disappointed?? Hell yeah, but I love this city and my teams. I will criticize play on the field but I don't equate that with character assassination. A lot of people HATE Ben because he got drunk & was stupid, so they say he sucks as a QB. Um, WHAT? His stats say otherwise. I fiercely defend the guy because he's elite. Other fan bases would kill to have a QB with his resume. if you don't like the guy, fine, but don't say he's a bad QB. People have already critiqued their draft & decided they won't be good again. UGH. Really? You're going to defeatist on May 11th? I liked sports so much better when I wasn't privy to every opinion on Earth, many not valid at all..LOL

  3. Now for my Penguin deal this season, it's very complicated. In what is a very taboo subject, Matt Cooke is my favorite player. I'm not going to discuss his virtues or lack thereof with most people. The social media consensus is what it is. My devotion is unwavering. When things are rough for him is when he needs his fans ( few that there may be) more than ever. Same with our teams. When they have a bad year, they need us. So on July 3rd, when free agency started, I was so nervous & upset that that did not re-sign Cooke. Then came July 5th and the news that he was now a member of the Wild. Since that day, the Wild became my team & the Pens were my secondary team. I purchased Center Ice to watch Wild games and plenty of Wild Cooke gear. I wear it proudly at my job, where there are many intelligent hockey fans. A funny thing happened while I watched the Wild. I fell in love with this team. They are young, fast & exciting. Watching a game in October, I remarked that they reminded me of the 2009 Cup Pens team. When they want to, they play that smothering style and challenge every puck & every move The Wild dressed 7 different goalies including one with MS. And do you know the VERY BEST THING about being a Wild fan ??? Not living in Minnesota & having to listen to people beat the players in to the ground, and criticize every move, every play, every coaching decision. It has become unbearable to be a Pens fan lately. Do I have my own thought & theories about the team? Of course. I talk with people at work about it a lot. I've actually come to chuckle about the people who call the talk shows. It's so absurd half the time. So many people have zero clue about the actual sport they are watching. I do have very strong feelings about one thing though. I truly believe in my heart that Cooke is very sorely missed in that locker room. With a ton of youth on the Wild, he was brought in as the veteran player a la Bill Guerin in the Cup year. During his recent suspension, The Wild has posted video of their winning locker room celebrations and Cookie has been at the end of the tunnel waiting for every guy. Their room is very tight. You can see it. I don't feel that with the Pens. But I'm still watching them and hoping they can win. Both of my teams could have their seasons end tomorrow night. I'm really hoping that doesn't happen. If they lose, I will thank them for a wonderful season of ups & downs and for thrilling me as I watch every game. If you are going to be miserable watching, you really should try to find something you're more passionate about.