Sports Town, USA

IMG_1708I was listening to my daily dose of sports talk radio one Monday morning many months ago during football season and the morning guys were debating whether or not Pittsburgh is a true sports town and getting pretty heated about it. Well, one guy was heated anyway. He was mad because of the pitiful attendance at the Pitt game that weekend. Pitt football is these days, in my personal observation, almost a second tier sport to their basketball program, which of course has to fill the need of all basketball fans in western PA since there is no professional team here (and there is no way we’re following a Philadelphia based team!). So, while even their basketball team has been less formidable lately than in the past, it gets a lot of attention and attendance, but the stands at Heinz Field are often embarrassingly sparse on Saturday afternoons. And that really torqued the one gentleman who said, in essence, in for a penny, in for a pound. If you want to call yourself a sports town, you have to embrace all of it. He argued that we’re not a sports town; we’re a Steelers town. And, I think he would have had to admit even at the time, a Penguins town, but he was on a football rant, so it didn’t come up. Also not discussed was baseball, at the time on hiatus. But while there is a grudging loyalty to the Pirates, the crowds are often sparse at games, despite PNC Park being arguably one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country, and the team is playing pretty well these days. And it is actually the state of the Pirates that got me to thinking about that morning rant recently. At 31-19, they are putting together a decent season, but people are slow to embrace it. There is a lot of hesitation after the collapse the team had last year, and the fan base seems to almost be punishing the team by staying away from games. I have to confess, I haven’t gone yet this season, and generally I’ve been to at least three or four by now. It almost feels like a lover cheating on you. You may still love that person, but it takes a while before you trust them again. But, does our reticence disqualify us as a true sports town? I guess it depends on how you define “sports town”.