Classics, Class Acts, and the Classless

Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has long been one of my favorite editorialists. Even if his column is about something which doesn’t immediately interest me, I still read it for the fun of reading a good piece of writing.
Today, his column happened to mention the possibility of the NHL Winter Classic being played within the confines of the majestic PNC Park – the nicest ballpark in which any home team has ever completely hit the shitter.
When speaking about this, he mentions that the ownership of your Battlin’ Buccos (read: straddlin’ suckos) should be contemplating more important things that go on inside PNC Park, such as, oh, I don’t know, baseball, rather than courting the NHL for its annual outdoor extravaganza.
In case you’ve missed the story as it floated through the news, the details are rather cut and dry: Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, PNC Park, New Year’s Day. Crosby and Malkin vs. Ovechkin in the (hopefully) frosty climes of Western Pennsylvania with naught but league pride and one of the marquee matchups of the regular season on the line.
If you’re a Pens fan and that doesn’t make your pants feel a little tighter, check your pulse.

While I’m excited at the prospect (and the amount of press it’s been getting), Collier does make a good point in his few statements at the beginning of his rant. He goes a different way with the conversation, but I’m going to hang on to the initial premise and lay down some obvious facts. The first and most glaring being this: Sure, the Winter Classic is awesome, but shouldn’t we spend some actual money and time working on our baseball team?
I’ll admit, I am not a huge baseball fan. I was not raised on it as some people were. My grandfather tried to get me in to it but I was too hyperactive. Baseball is not a sport for the easily bored. I wanted frenetic non-stop activity and that’s what hockey gave to me. Until I began my drinking career, I couldn’t sit still or concentrate on it long enough to see more than 2 consecutive innings. Even when the Pirates were winning.
I still hold some amount of disdain toward baseball though, being married to a woman who practically worshipped the Pirates of the late 80s and early 90s, I sort of got into it and started watching. Baseball being on at the bar also helps. Still, I can’t fully get into it.

I don’t want to say that if the Bucs were doing well, I would pay more attention to them. That would make me no better than the people I hate for becoming latter-day Pens fans now that we’ve got some of the best players in the league, two Conference Championships, and a Stanley Cup under our belts. I heckle those who jumped on the bandwagon without struggling through the thin years. I know that true fans are the ones who stand by the team, even when they’re in the direst of straits.
How long, though, can anyone really stand by a team? If the Pirates have another losing season, their streak will be able to walk into a convenience store and buy cigarettes. If the Pirates have another losing season, their streak will graduate over the summer and start looking for colleges so that it can become an even better (worse?) losing streak.
After seventeen years of losing seasons, I couldn’t blame even the most staunch Bucs fan (and they are out there, I know a few) for abandoning the sinking fiery wreck which this team has become. With piss poor ownership, used-car salesman management, and bargain basement talent at bargain basement prices, there’s nothing to really like about the future of this franchise.

There was a brief glimmer of hope a month ago when Lemieux Group LP offered to buy the team from the vile and detestable Nutting family.
As designated God of Pittsburgh, Mario reached down his mighty hand and attempted to enter negotiations. The Nuttings weren’t having it, though it stirred the city into a brief frenzy of what-ifs.
What if… the ownership of the Pirates cared about its welfare?
What if… the ownership was worried about more than lining their own pocketbook?
What if… it was all just a ploy to light a fire under/draw a magnifier over the Nutting family?
What if… the goal was to have Lemieux Group LP buy the Bucs in an effort to create an official Pittsburgh Sports Network, ousting Fox Sports Pittsburgh from its current contracts and creating an on-air revenue stream which runs right into the improvement of two of the city’s sports teams?

None of the above wonderings are bad things. There’s really no way that Mario even offering to buy the Bucs could do anything but help the team. That man turns ownership into pwnership.
The Bucs would win out in the deal as much as Pens fans would. All that gate money, all that food and beer money, raked in when the joint would otherwise be locked up tight. The money-grubbing bastards are doing it behind the screen of our much beloved world champion hockey team, too. I’d like to see the Winter Classic come here. Just, maybe not to the benefit of Pirates ownership.

If the Bucs are to benefit from the Penguins celebrating a 6-2 stomping (you heard it here first!) of the Washington Capitals in the 2011 or 2012 Winter Classic, I would hope that they would take the ill-gotten gains and spend them on something other than another West Virginia Manse for the Nutting family. Maybe invest in a half-decent crop of ball players who may have to be paid above league min but will still put up more of a fight than the current caste of characters.

It’s a crazy dream, but dammit, I have it.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

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