A losing lesson

blogPNC Park1We didn’t get to raise the Jolly Roger.

If you’re not a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball fan, you won’t understand that sentence. So I’ll explain for those of you don’t get it. Whenever the team wins, the Jolly Roger flag is raised – you know, Jolly Roger as in the flag flown by pirates…Pittsburgh Pirates.

Even though the Pirates lost the game (4-1) to the Seattle Mariners, it was still a beautiful night for us to attend a Major League Baseball game in Pittsburgh’s lovely PNC Park, located in the North Shore district of the city right along the Allegheny River.

Back in July, my name was drawn for a door prize at our church picnic and I received a voucher for free Pirates tickets. Summer slid by us quickly though and before we knew it, baseball season would be coming to a close. So we checked home game schedules and our calendars and secured tickets online, making use of that voucher.

We couldn’t have picked a more perfect evening to attend a ball game. No hot and humid weather that day, just nice balmy temperatures and as the sun set, a cooling breeze floated off the river and into the stadium. 

Our seats located in right field behind first base perhaps weren’t ideal but we were very close to the field and I could actually see players’ facial expressions when they were stretching and preparing pre-game.

The Pirates though were not so perfect as the game unfolded. Unfortunately, they haven’t been all season long with a dismal bottom-of-the-rung standing of 66 wins and 91 losses.

And it showed by gazing around PNC Park that evening. The stadium, with a capacity of over 38,000 people, wasn’t even half full of fans. With an attendance well under 10,000 folks that night, PNC was only a quarter full. 

So many empty seats. In the words of the old Take Me Out to the Ballgame song, there certainly wasn’t a crowd nor a lot of “root, root, root for the home team.” Actually, it seemed as if more noise and applause came from a small section of Mariners fans instead of the home team supporters.

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Too many empty seats!

Sad, I thought. And demoralizing for an already losing team.

We watched patiently as each Pirates batter either struck out or hit pop up fly balls resulting in quick one, two, three outs. There was more action on the field on Pittsburgh’s part at the end of the fifth inning when the “Great Pierogi Race” was held than during the game. Click here if you want to know what that’s all about.

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The Great Pierogi Race. (Not one of my best photos, but you get the idea.)

Pitching was no better especially when the hurler allowed the Mariners two home runs, one right after the other.

Needless to say, those nine innings of baseball didn’t result in a long game. ‘Fans’ started leaving the game even before the game ended.

And of course, this gave me food for thought.

I wondered what effect the lack of fan support had on those players. I know they’re baseball professionals, they garner boatloads of money to play, and they’re used to the ups and downs of the game, winning or losing, but they are still human. And humans have emotions, positive and negative.

Did it discourage the team when they noticed there were so few fans in the seats? When very few people even clapped for them when the starting line-up was announced? That lack of fan support had to bother them somewhat.

And where were all the baseball fans? Are they that fickle? What’s up with that? Human nature, that’s what’s up.

Why is it that we only seem to get behind winners? Why do people, other than true, die-hard fans, only want to attend games to cheer on a winning team instead of supporting and encouraging a losing one?

We can’t all be winners all the time and yet, that’s what our hearts desire. If the Pirates had been enjoying a winning 2019 season, I guarantee you that ball park would be crowded and full of fans screaming at the top of their lungs.

There’s a good lesson for life in this. When you’re down and out, that’s when you need someone rooting for you, someone in your corner, someone who has your back. Someone who will sit with you, even in defeat, and say, “You did your best. Keep trying. I’ll still be here to cheer you on.”

You know, that’s the kind of person I want to be in life and it took a losing baseball game to remind me of that.

I want to lift up those who feel like they’re failing, those who are downtrodden, with words of encouragement and cheer. It’s more difficult to be the one who stays until the bitter end of a losing battle than running wild with the winner’s mob.

But you know what? It’s worth it.

“There are four words that, when said, will bring out the best in your team, your employees, and your family. They are: ‘I believe in you.’” ~ Coach K

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