Raise the Jolly Roger! Part II

Confession time – I’m a die-hard Pirates fan.  Have been since moving to Pittsburgh in 2000.  Stuck it out with ‘em through the bad times and the…bad times.

Our family goes to a lot of games, especially my son and me.

My son is 14.  He’s a huge Bucco fan.  He grew up cheering for a team that too often amounted to no more than the Bad News Pirates.  That makes him a bit “special”; it’s sad, but I don’t think there are many kids in Pittsburgh that have grown up living and dying Pirates baseball.   I guess I have to add that it’s also sad the Pirates could not put a product on the field that we could all be proud of, but that’s another story.  Saddest of all is that so many dads and sons and daughters have missed sharing time together at the ball park.

I’ve watched J grow up at Pirates’ games.  It seems like only yesterday that he would clap and shout (as only a three year old can) “let’s go Bucs” and then immediately turn his attention to the Pirate Parrot, the cotton candy man, or the playground on the River Walk.  I didn’t want to miss the baseball, but it was more important that I didn’t miss J running around the bases at the playground.

Later he discovered a million uses for peanut shells.  Well maybe not a million, but he spent the better part of two seasons acting out terrific “battles at sea” between the Pirates and Cubs or Reds or whomever the Pirates were playing that day.  Holding a peanut shell in each hand, he’d tell me which one was the Pirate ship, and I had to guess which one was going to win.  Always picking the Pirates, J would proceed to smash the two shells together until there was only one left – the winner!

The Perogie Race was the highlight of any game unless the Pirates hit a home run in which case the fireworks were most special of all.  Of course to attend a Fireworks Night was simply magic.  So was the time we caught a home-run ball in the outfield, and even a foul ball along the 3rd base line; these are special stories and the balls are safely tucked away at home.

For several years we would race each other to the car after each game (we often parked along the river and we could run through parks).  The first one to touch the car was the winner.  J almost always won; I was just thankful to have survived the final sprint.

I remember J “running the bases” after Sunday games, and I remember J being invited to play catch on the PNC field.  Last year, at Fan Appreciation Day (the last home game of the season) the PA announcer called-out a seat number – it was one of ours, J won the game jersey of Jared Hughes!  Jared spent a lot of time talking with J; just a GREAT guy, helping create more special memories….

I remember J laughing.  I laughed too.  A lot.  How do you measure the importance of a dad and son laughing together?  The Pirates didn’t win many games, but we still laughed, ran, hoped for foul balls and ate hot dogs and cotton candy and Cracker Jacks.

The most important thing we did was talk.  Walking to the game and back to the car, we talked.  We talked during the game when the game wasn’t tense or a Peanut Pirate Ship Battle wasn’t taking place.    We talked about a whole lot more than baseball…

And all this from a team that seemed would never win again.

It wasn’t easy being Pirate fans, especially when no one else around us cared.  Actually many people mocked.  But we talked about that too.  How many times I remember walking over the Clemente Bridge after another loss, and J asking me, “Dad, do you think the Pirates will ever be winners?”  I would assure him that someday he was going to see something truly special – the Pirates as winners and the stadium full of people celebrating and cheering.  I helped him believe something, something I knew to be true, and we would keep believing even as fewer and fewer people believed the story.  And I promised – the present “disappointments” will make the promised future all the more worthwhile, all the more special.  The promises of the future…

We don’t surrender our convictions, our beliefs, our faith, our future based on what “the world” says or believes or does.  We don’t follow the crowd.  We don’t surrender “who we are” in order to be like the world or liked by the world.  It can be lonely; it can be hard.   But some things are more important…

Of course baseball is only baseball.  It’s not life and death and we really do keep it in prospective.  But baseball and the Pirates, for all their losses, gave us the opportunity to learn a lot about life and making choices.  We are learning to seek our own way and not follow the currents of culture; we will seek the truth for ourselves and not accept the latest trendy pronouncements.  Most important, we are learning that we will not live simply for the present; ultimately the promises of the future are more important.   In the promises of the future we can find great joy and laughter even in the middle of our disappointments.

I’m pretty sure J is learning the real point – if we had followed the world, how much joy would we have missed, how many promises would be lost….

I’m sure he knows I’m not really talking about baseball at all.  I hope you know this as well.

Many Blessings!


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