By Patricia Zick @PCZick
Sports Fan? “No way,” she said before she moved to Pittsburgh.
This is a tale of a woman who rebelled against her upbringing with four older, and athletic, brothers.
For years, I hated sports because they took most of my family away from me on weekends and holidays. They might have only gone as far as the living room floor, sprawling out in front of our black and white television set adorned with rabbit ears. (For those of you too young to know, the rabbit ears were antennas, pointed toward the nearest television stations.) My brothers and father focused solely on the game at hand. Sports also took my parents away as they attempted to attend every sports event of each of my brothers.
Yes, I hated sports, with certain conditions. I loved the Detroit Tigers because one of my brothers signed with them in 1965, and we went to many games during his two-year stint in the minor leagues. I only loved them live – not on the television.
My first husband was not an athlete, and he didn’t share my family’s obsession with professional and college football, basketball, golf, hockey, and baseball. I buried my head in the sand when we moved to Florida to the land of Gators. I worked with folks who wore orange and blue underwear, and still I resisted through the Spurrier years and Tebowdom.
Then something miraculous occurred. I moved to Pittsburgh and married a man who’d grown up with my brothers in Michigan, yet lived in southwestern Pennsylvania for more than three decades. He indoctrinated me when he took me to a driving range for my first attempt in forty years at swinging a club. I missed and nearly spun myself around on the fake grass. Embarrassed, I looked at my Pittsburgh man.
“Come on,” he said. “You come from a long line of athletes. You have this in your genes.”
At first, it ticked me off. And then, it clicked. I swung and hit the ball more than 200 yards.
Thus began my re-indoctrination into the sports world.
The training continued with my first Steelers game at Heinz Field on downtown Pittsburgh’s northside. How could I resist a stadium where the glittering lights of downtown skyscrapers reflected in the three rivers of Pittsburgh? How could I resist the giant Heinz ketchup bottles at one end of the stadium that open and pour out ketchup when the home team makes it to the red zone?
My rebellion halted the first time I saw a giant plastic bottle with fake red ketchup pouring out of its top.
We went to an August 2009 Pirates game at PNC Park, which is rated as one of the top baseball stadiums in Major League Baseball. It was a Friday night at the end of yet another losing season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. We were nearly alone in the seats and moved as close as we could to the action. I saw Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker in action and wondered why the team couldn’t do better. We went to more games in 2010, 2011, and 2012 as they continued to lose, with short glimmers of hope when the bats of Pedro Alvarez and “Cutch” slung balls into the bleachers. I slowly became a fan.
Then there were the Penguins. We went to several games each season. Last year, they were contenders once again for the Stanley Cup only to lose badly to Boston in post-season play. I was sad for Crosby, Malkin, and the rest of the young men who played so hard for Pittsburgh.
To put salve on the wound, expectations began rising for the Pirates in spring 2013. I refused to hope for anything but a win at the games I attended. We went four times this season, and they lost each time. We waited for two months, and then couldn’t resist heading down to PNC Park for one more try a few weeks ago. This time – four years after my first game – the stadium was filled with cheering fans, and they won.
A few weeks ago, the Pirates and their fans could boast about their first winning season in twenty years. They most certainly will be in the playoffs once the regular season ends next weekend.
I can’t explain how it happened, but it did. I’m almost a bigger fan than my husband because I always hope for the win. He gives up early in the games, but I hold on for the miracle. In my miracle, the Steelers beat the Bears despite a two-touchdown deficit; the Penguins win at least one game against the Bruins in the playoffs; and the Pirates make it to the World Series.
If my miracles continue to occur, the Tigers and the Pirates will slug it out for the top honor in October.
If this happens, there’s no way I’ll lose.
My husband was right this one time. It really is in my genes.