, Salem, MA


July 13, 2013

Shribman: A summer of love at the Pittsburgh ballpark


These men are the boys of a generation’s summer, if only.

Because every generation of sports fans, in every city, but especially this generation of Bucs fans, deserves a summer seared in memory — a summer romance with the crackle of a play-by-play announcer as our song, unforgettable as a first kiss, as tingly in memory as in the moment, maybe more so.

And all the more beautiful the more unexpected it is.

That’s why all of the baseball faithful, except maybe for Reds and Cardinals fans, are going to be Pirates partisans once the game resumes after its annual July intermission. It’s not only because the Pirates have the longest string of losing seasons in the history of American big-time pro sports. It’s also because it’s almost as stirring to watch a love story as to live one.

We’re living it, “Casablanca” by the river bank, and what all of you beyond the Allegheny Mountains are watching may be the quiet transformation of the sporting culture of an entire region.

Since the 1974 draft, which produced four NFL Hall of Famers, the Steelers have ruled here. The Penguins, despite their June collapse in the Stanley Cup playoffs, are a team possessed of great ingenuity on the ice and great insights in the front office.

That left the Pirates as the forgotten men of the three rivers, resented for bungling season after season, reviled by true fans for despoiling their jewel of a ballpark with senseless between-innings distractions that seemed designed to be so mindless that the performances on the field might seem artful by comparison. Monday night’s horror show, a new low if I didn’t know better: several Jumbotron minutes of Pirates players discussing which day of the week they disliked the most.

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