Every year, February stands as the one month that we, as Americans, truly celebrate love. On Valentine’s Day we express our love and affection to those closet to us with boxes of chocolate, flower bouquets, oversized-teddy bears, consensual sex, and sappy Instagram posts. It’s a nice reminder every year to take a step back from our hectic lives, and to appreciate and celebrate our most important relationships.
I have finally dipped the pen, not to complain that the only affection I received this Valentine’s Day was an I Love You Bitmoji I received from my mom, but to tell the story of a relationship built on a deep, hate-filled depression that I experience every February.
The Pittsburgh Pirates.
February marks the start of spring training, and with that, the turn of the sports calendar. Football is laid to rest until April when the NFL Draft takes center stage for one weekend. (I’m also not counting the AAF as real football yet because any league that employs Christian Hackenberg as a starting quarterback is not my football league. But I digress.) The NHL is damn near impossible to follow religiously until playoffs start. That leaves the NBA and college basketball. They both keep me interested, mainly because of a crippling gambling addiction, but also because of the primetime matchups a couple times per week. Outside of that, spring training baseball fills in the cracks. It’s hard not to fall in love with the optimism surrounding revamped rosters, the videos showing your favorite players practicing in warm weather, and the hearing the sound of the crack of the wood bat or the pop of the glove.
I, however, hate those things. Not because I don’t enjoy baseball, but because I am a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates. This February has been no different. As the Pirates are almost through their first week of spring training games, I remind myself to not get caught up in the emotions of joy and happiness that come with watching baseball. Every five game winning streak, Jameson Taillon shutout, or Jung Ho Kang drunken moonshot is guaranteed to pull me closer to being all in on the Pirates. Each and every high point in the upcoming season will have me giddy that my underdog Buccos are going to sneak into the playoffs with the entire city of Pittsburgh behind them. Those highs make the lows that much worse. After the Pirates sell at the trade deadline for “financial flexibility” and fall from second to last place in the division, I will only be able to question myself. How could I be so foolish as to buy in again this year. I think about what could have been while nodding along with my Andrew McCutchen bobble head and watching dash cam highlights of Jung Ho Kang’s drunk driving.
With all of that said, the players are my guys. I’ll support Pirates players until the day I am killed for racking up too much gambling debt. All of my problems stem from General Manager Neal Huntington and Owner Bob Nutting. New year, new “we plan on contending for a world series championship with the talent we have” type of comment from upper management. Only an idiot could listen to their press conferences and not see through their bullshit. I am expected to believe that a team with a payroll south of 70 million for the entire roster is supposed to compete in a league where jagoffs like Manny Machado make almost half of that alone. Comments along the lines of, “We focus on the things that we can control and let the payroll iron itself out,” should be punishable by malpractice lawsuits for a MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL front office. How many times can you attach top end prospects to a trade for a shit bag middle reliever for the sole purpose of offloading salary before you are put into jail. In one of the toughest divisions in baseball, where every team made big moves to improve, the Pirates look to stay cheap and fight an uphill battle.
Every year I face this crippling cycle. It’s a case of mental and emotional warfare that I have to grind away at one day at a time. February marks the start of my depression, but do not let my negativity ruin your love for the game. I hope everyone enjoys this baseball season to the fullest, and may your team endure nagging shoulder pain.
As the time has come for me to put the pen down, I will leave you with this. My favorite baseball memory is watching Johnny Cueto drop a baseball on the pitching mound. If that doesn’t describe the foundation for the eternal sadness and depression that is in my heart, then nothing will.