The Pirate Diary: Opening and Closing

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Diana Moskovitz, a successful and well-adjusted woman despite being a lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates fan, has written for us about the fleeting joys and enduring pain of life as a Bucs fan in the past. This year, she'll keep a periodic diary on what it feels like to spend a spring and summer with this haunted slapstick franchise. This is the first entry.

I will enjoy today. I will enjoy it because, after this, it all goes to hell. So I told myself Monday, before the first pitch of the Pittsburgh Pirates' 2013 season, as I have in years past. Then it went to hell, as it does.

Before 10:05 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the Pittsburgh Pirates were winners. For a few hours, the Pirates stood a chance. This is a Spring Training cliché, maybe, but it also meant that in that pre-pitch moment there were no losses, no regrets, no poor decisions—no dumb drunk guy in a bar watching SportsCenter and asking anyone around, "Why don't they put the Pirates out of their misery?" There was no me, at the end of the bar, telling him to shove it.

That morning, like almost every baseball team in America, the Pirates were undefeated. They were a "victorious" 0-0, and owners of a share of a widely shared and heavily abstracted first place.

For Pirates fans, in a way that it isn't quite as true of other fans, Opening Day is always the best day, if only because nothing has gone officially, demonstrably wrong yet. There's no angst over when the hemorrhaging will stop, only over when it will start. No defending your loyalties to people who think it's okay to ask, while barely knowing you, "Why do you like that team still?" There's just a sort of happy suspension on a bright plane of possibility.

The feeling usually lasts about five to 10 hours, depending on which coast you call home.

Sure, you might think, isn't this true for every team, minus the loser of the Sunday night Rangers-Astros matchup? A new season is always a fresh start. Everyone gets to feel this.

But does your team have 20 years of consecutive losing experience? Right. So: we need this. We treasure this. Then the season starts.

***

Not that I haven't had all offseason to find things that will go wrong, of course. There was the scandal surrounding the risky and hugely dumb Navy SEALS-style training for prospects; the "who thought this was a good idea?" question it raised and the passive answer, from the team, that whoever thought as much wouldn't be censured or fired for it. There was Andrew McCutchen making the MLB 13 The Show cover—there's surely a Madden-style curse for a Pirate, right? There was ESPN's Keith Law predicting them to finish dead last, although now that the newly Astros-free National League Central has only five teams, that's slightly less dubious a distinction.

But for one morning, that gets pushed out. The fresh grass glows, the hot dogs sizzle and all the rest—and damn it, this is America, where we tell ourselves, time after time and all proof to the contrary, anything can happen. The Pirates have zero loses. I spent the day checking for game updates, like all the other anxious fans. One win, and we're a perfect 1.000, at the top of the division. One win to be followed by another and another, with some losses mixed in to keep things realistic. The pitching will outperform. The hitters will exceed expectations. Hell, a winning record by the All-Star break could be ours. And then after that it's just a question of doing it again. This has to happen eventually, right?

A more realistic expectation would have been to get one win, on Opening Day, and pray every other team in the division loses. Or at least that all the teams in the division with alphabetically appropriate names lose, forcing the alphabetized listings to put the Pirates at the top.

Less than 24 hours later, there isn't even that. Instead, I checked the standings on my phone and saw the Pirates right where they were expected to be: comfortably at the bottom of the standings, shut down by a Cubs team that is one of the few in baseball that's virtually certain to be worse than Pittsburgh this year. Through nine innings and in front of a sellout home crowd, the Pirates scored just one run, and that one was hand-delivered by goofball Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, who may have lost that gig after facing just four Pirates batters.

But for him and the Pirates and us, there's always tomorrow. So I'll choose magical thinking again. One win, and the team is back in the race, a comfortable .500—a very noble goal, especially when your team is the Pittsburgh Pirates. At any rate, it's a start.

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