4 Holier-Than-Thou Rules for Bandwagon Pirates Fans
Welcome to the family, newbies. Just don’t break these Commandments.
Photo by Dave DiCello
Is there any day on the professional sports calendar more hopeful than Opening Day at PNC Park? The Steelers open their season as we bid goodbye to summer, and the Penguins open theirs as nature wilts depressingly in preparation for winter.
But Opening Day? The dread and gloom of winter giving birth to the life and bloom of spring? Brown turning green. Sun. Warmth. Promise. Like throwing open the windows after four months of breathing in shuttered, stale air.
That’s why we’re rabid about Opening Day. It’s a symbolic rebirth. Baptism by sunshine.
Yesterday’s Opening Day will go down as one of my favorite baseball memories (we’ll pretend Barry Bonds wasn’t there). Perfect weather with a sky bluer than Highmark’s corporate brand identity. A pitching standoff. Sparkling defense. Free baseball. A walk-off homer over the Clemente Wall by the Pittsburgh kid, Neil Walker. Baseball perfection.
. . . Except for the behavior of a handful of fans.
As we enter into a baseball season that will be enjoyed by new fans ready to root on a winning baseball team (finally!), it’s time we lay down the law. It’s time for someone to come down from Mount Washington with clouds descending and give unto Pirate fans the Four Commandments of Baseball Spectatorship.
Not to sound all holier than thou . . . but this I command yinz:
1. Thou shalt not get to third base on the Kiss Cam.
The Kiss Cam is tradition. A chance to awkwardly high-five your opposite-sex sibling or smooch your honey for all the stadium to see. A chaste peck perhaps. Or a more forward full-on smush. I salute your love with my $25 beer (rounding here). Kiss on. But baseball, more than any sport, is meant to be enjoyed by families. Moms, dads, gramps and kids all in a row. So when you find yourself on the Kiss Cam being urged to lay one on your neighbor, don’t turn it into late-night Cinemax. Don’t shove your tongue down her throat. Don’t, for the love of God, round first base and head sprinting for third as if Nick Leyva is frantically waving you on while thousands of children watch. Get a room. This I command yinz.
2. Thou shalt not depart your seat during game action.
PNC Park ushers now hold placards that inform you of this commandment, but a lot of people seem to be ignoring it. Unless it’s an emergency, do not attempt to vacate your seat during game action. Don’t wait until a 3-2 count in the bottom of the eighth to decide to go get that bucket of wings. Don’t attempt to re-enter your row while Cutch is rounding second. Wait until a new batter is walking up to the plate or, even better, mid-inning. And don’t ever ever stand up in front of my 7-year-old daughter as the pierogies enter the home stretch. She will assault you verbally, and I will root her on. Wait for the lull. This I command yinz.
3. Thou shalt not get vomitously drunk.
Yesterday, the two 20-something dudes seated directly behind my family were so drunk that one vomited all over the other, forcing the pair to leave the game due to stench and embarrassment . . . in the first inning. Now, I love beer (even you, Zima), and drinking beer at baseball games is one of my favorite traditions. I believe in beer. I believe in tailgating. That said, don’t drink so much before the game that you cannot last through the first inning. Definitely don’t get so drunk that your obnoxious behavior diminishes others’ enjoyment of the game. Definitely don’t allow any bodily fluids to escape your person until you enter a bathroom. Definitely don’t cause the row in front of you to check their shirts for puke splatter. Be a good seat neighbor. This I command yinz.
4. Thou shalt not defile the ears of children
Many parents will tell you that they refuse to take their children to Steelers games due to the profanity that fills the air. While it’s certainly not as bad at Penguins games, there’s still enough profanity at Consol to make parents cringe as their children get a heavy dose of four-letter medicine. But baseball — again — is supposed to be the FAMILY sport. The good ole’ American sit-in-the-sun-and-open-a-box-of-Cracker-Jacks sport. Yesterday, my children (ages 11 and 7) learned about the new replay rules . . . and they learned that some adults will shout the F-word right into their young ears over and over again. My kids don’t know it, but I can’t get through an episode of “The Walking Dead” without at least one, “#*$& ME!” And baseball really brings out my silent potty mouth. The words that go through my brain when we play the Reds would make the Dread Pirate Roberts blush. I get it. Go ahead and swear. To your seat neighbor. To your friend. Lean over and say to him, “That Joey Votto is a [bleeping] piece of [bleep].” Then lean down to me and say it in my ear so that I can worship at your church of absolute truth. But do not stand up and shout over the heads of children any word that you would not scream right into your grandma’s face. This I command yinz.
Stuff that is entirely acceptable:
Now, you would think that before I hopped off my high horse and pinned my “Holier Than Thou” achievement badge to my sash, that I would pull a second stone tablet from my Moop bag that said things such as “Thou shalt not leave the game early” or “Thou shalt not take part in the wave.”
Because leaving the game early is your choice, and unless you’re standing up to leave during game action, you’re not hurting anyone but yourself when Neil Walker heads for home amid fireworks in the bottom of the tenth while you’re halfway across the Clemente Bridge. And I’m sorry anti-wavers, but kids love the wave. It’s tradition and it is never ever going away, so we might as well learn to live with it. Angrily tweeting about it every time it happens isn’t going to change anything. It’s futile to try.
Tailgate, chug beer with dignity, shout down the umps, boo the steroid-abusing sport-tainter, catch a foul ball in your beer cup, dance your butt off (but please don’t smite us with your twerk), scream your head off, high-five strangers, love and live the game.
But it all comes down to this: Respect the sport of baseball, the sport of Clemente, and what it has historically represented and what it must continue to represent — our whole nation’s beloved family-strengthening pastime . . . not the pastime of selfish profane drunks.
Can I get an Amen?