Love This Time, Pirates Fans

Pirates fans, these are the good times.

I know you know this, but it bears repeating — these are the times you have been waiting for as a fan, and you ought to enjoy it.

If you were at PNC Park for tonight’s game (or even watching on TV), you felt the crowd electrify when Russell Martin hit the go-ahead home run. Rob King called it “one of the most dramatic moments in PNC Park history,” and he is absolutely right. Watching the drama of September baseball finally come to Pittsburgh feels incredible.

So my request to you, Pirates fans: be grateful. I don’t mean grateful in a “you must like Bob Nutting and never criticize management” kind of way. I don’t mean grateful in a “how could you be mad at anything when the Pirates are in the playoffs?” kind of way.

What I mean is: this is the kind of September (and forthcoming October) that we saw in other cities for 20 years, and we dreamed that the same excitement could come here. Be grateful for that. Let your emotions, high and low, run wild. The next few weeks represent the pinnacle of baseball and sporting drama.

Be grateful to be a part of these new Pirates golden years. They may not last forever.

Sports are funny for many reasons. One of them: U.S. professional team sports are not a zero-sum game. They are less than a zero-sum game. At the end of a season, there’s always: 1 fan-base celebrating, 3 or 4 fan-bases being satisfied at overachieving and about 25 fan-bases left disappointed and often angry.

Why do we as sports fans subject ourselves to this losing system? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ However, we can change it within ourselves. At the end of this Pirates season, if they don’t win the World Series, go ahead and be disappointed and angry. It’s natural.

But right now? This is the fun part. This is why we root and nonsensically devote our time, money and passion to this losing system. Because right now is hope. Right now is fun. Right now is joyous. Be grateful to feel those emotions after 20 years of apathy, and lose yourself in the right now.

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The One Chart that Shows Why You Should Support Lyft & Uber in Pittsburgh

This week, Pennsylvania lawmakers are expected to vote on new legislation for “ridesharing” companies like Uber and Lyft.

I have been driving for Lyft since last month and have really enjoyed my time shuttling Pittsburghers around. But even before I began using it as a part-time job, I was a satisfied customer of Uber and Lyft in Los Angeles.

That is why I urge Pittsburghers to support the full legalization of ridesharing in Pennsylvania. Three things to keep in mind:

1. Pittsburgh has the most bars per capita of any city in the United States — 12 bars per 10,000 people.

2. People in Pittsburgh are desperate for car service on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Check out this chart from Uber public relations on the number of requests they get in Pittsburgh throughout the week:

Uber Pittsburgh Requests

Guess what — those folks aren’t requesting Uber rides to go to the grocery store. They’re drunk.

3. Cab service in Pittsburgh is inadequate. I have heard sad tale after sad tale from my Lyft passengers — waiting 60 minutes for a taxi on a Friday night, waiting 90 minutes for a taxi on a Saturday night, having a taxi they requested “jacked” by someone else who had not requested it, or worst of all having a taxi they requested not show up at all.

And that’s just the areas of Allegheny County where Yellow Cab will actually drive.

I don’t know if Lyft and Uber will decrease traffic, open up more parking spots or increase quality of life (though all that is possible).

I do know that legalized Lyft and Uber will prevent many people from driving drunk in the Pittsburgh area. And that is bound to save lives.

If you’re in Pennsylvania, contact your legislator. Use the guide Uber published the other day or the form email that Lyft posted. Either way, take two minutes and support innovation in Pittsburgh that keeps dangerous drunk drivers off our streets.

Gus Johnson Has Priorities. I Hope I Will Too.

At first I was surprised by some news in the broadcasting world today: Gus Johnson is removing himself from the top play-by-play spot for Fox Sports’ soccer coverage.

Wow. That was unexpected.

Then I got to the 6th paragraph, and it absolutely floored me. Johnson’s last conversation with his cancer-stricken mother took place on the phone, as he was in Lisbon to call the Champions League Final.

“I asked her if she wanted me to come home and she said, ‘No. You are a Johnson man and your job is to work.’ I finished the game, got back home, and she was pretty much unconsciousness at that point because she had Stage Four ovarian cancer. I never got the chance to talk to her again because the cancer was eating her up. I think I’m still in the process of healing. My mother was the most important person in my life.”

Damn.

I’m going to need a couple paragraphs, so hang tight for a second.

Okay, I think I’m ready.

Johnson’s story breaks my heart. And it terrifies me. I pray I am blessed enough to have even a fraction of the professional success that Gus Johnson (who has announced March Madness, Knicks basketball, championship boxing, Champions League, NFL and college bowl games) has had.

But I pray even more that I have the right kind of success: one that allows me to put my personal life (some people know this as a life) first. Thus the terror: if Johnson’s story of not talking to his mother before she died ever happened to me with my mother/father/sisters/brother/spouse, and I was stuck out of town because of work… my soul would free-fall.

Some people may choose to read the Sports Illustrated story cynically: Fox Sports read the negative feedback to soccer announcer Johnson, wanted to make a change and offered Johnson the out of a resignation instead of a demotion.

I choose to read Johnson’s story at face value: this is a man who prioritizing the right things. Some parts of life are more important than announcing a World Cup Final. Johnson has achieved wonderful successes in his professional career, but those successes are not all that matters.

I am reading a terrific new book from Arianna Huffington called Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. Look past the new-agey, self-help title. She writes some great advice, especially for me, someone just about to start his career.

The gist:

“Our relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success — money and power — has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and an erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers…. Our current definition of success is literally killing us. We need a new way forward.”

Doesn’t sound too crazy, right? Don’t let success in your work solely determine your happiness. Create a new measure. Thrive. It sounds like Gus Johnson is re-organizing his life in the right way. It is never too late to start.

Imagining the Worst for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Quick thought exercise on the most ridiculously horrible end-of-season scenario for the 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates. Shall we?

  • After the Cardinals crater over the next week and a half, the Pirates have a chance to clinch the NL Central by winning of the season’s final two games on Sept. 27 and 28. They lose both, in walkoff fashion to the Reds, and St. Louis wins its final game to force a tiebreaker with the Pirates.
  • The Pirates fly from Cincinnati to St. Louis to play in the NL Central tiebreaker on Sept. 29. They lose that game, let’s say in the 15th-inning when Pedro Alvarez (the last available third baseman on the bench) overthrows Ike Davis with two outs.
  • The Pirates fly from St. Louis to San Francisco to play the NL Wild Card game. It is still conceivable that the Wild Card Giants have a better record than the NL Central winner, considered the Giants are currently 1.5 games ahead of the Cardinals. The Pirates, of course, lose the Wild Card. This time we’ll say it was a 6-0 laugher in which they never stood a chance.

Fun to think about, eh? Fun to think about the Bucs kicking your heart into 1,000 pieces and not even getting to play the postseason clincher, the NL Central tiebreaker or the NL Wild Card Game at home, eh?

If it happens even similarly to how I have laid it out, I will be fleeing to Canada before I am exiled.

Young Women in Sports Media are Badass

I don’t know how you could have missed it, because everyone has been linking to it.

But if you haven’t seen Katie Nolan’s takedown of the NFL and its broadcast networks, watch it. And if you have already watched it, you know it’s worth the three-and-a-half minutes to watch again.

I can’t add too much to that, because Katie knocked it out of the damn park. But here goes:

If my experience is indicative, our journalism schools are churning out female sportscasters that are just as smart and knowledgeable about the sports they cover as the boys are, often more so.

Once you understand that’s the truth, it becomes inconceivable that our channels and networks continue to employ more men for on-air roles than women. Taken as a whole, from play-by-play to color commentator to sideline reporting to anchoring to studio analysis, I would guess that our national and regional sports networks are still at least three guys for every woman.

And don’t get me started on sports radio. Nolan nails it when she says:

“A lot of people like to justify women’s supporting role in sports media by saying, well, they’ve never played the game so they just aren’t qualified to speak about it. Because, God forbid, someone misspeak about the game. But topics like domestic violence and racism and corruption? Let’s let Boomer handle those between downs.”

Every day, we tune our radios and flip our TV channels and hear hundreds of men and make bold proclamations about games they never played professionally and topics like domestic violence that they have never experienced.

But when you put a woman in the same role? The complaints pour in. She doesn’t belong there. What would she know about football? I didn’t tune in to hear a woman. It just doesn’t sound right having a female play-by-play announcer.

On and on ad infinitum.

Please stop. Sure, male writers and broadcasters hear, “what do you know, you never played the game!” as well, but never as much as females do. And if a male makes a mistake on a name or stat, as humans tend to do, he gets far more benefit of the doubt than a woman who just doesn’t know the game dammit.

For everyone who thinks like this, slowly remove your fat foot from your Bud-Light-guzzling mouth, crawl back into your man-cave and lock yourself in it. We don’t need you.

This is no exaggeration: my graduating class in the Broadcast and Digital Journalism major at USC had six girls for every guy. The girl/guy ratio for those looking to enter sportscasting was 2-to-1, maybe 3-to-1. Every one of those ladies knows more about football than I do, is harder-working and (let’s remember that being watchable is a part of television) is better looking than I am.

If somehow, in 25 years, the number of females in on-air sportscasting jobs has not equaled or surpassed the number of males, it will be because biased network executives and misogynist fans won. It won’t be for lack of available talent.