When I started this site in 2009, I just wanted a place to keep track of the payroll, option years, and a place to post updates from my trips to Lynchburg to see Pedro Alvarez. Only about 50 people read the site at the time, with a majority of them coming from the Pirates MLB.com message board. Like most people who lived outside of the Pittsburgh area, I took to online forums and blogs to keep in contact with Pirates fans. There’s something about sports where you need that contact. You need to talk to other Pirates fans about what is going on, and to find out how other people felt about the Aramis Ramirez trade, or passing on Matt Wieters, or the rebuild under Huntington.
Everyone has their own Pirates online community, but it wasn’t until I started this site that I saw how many there were and how loyal and invested Pirates fans were, despite all of the losing.
It started a few weeks after I started the site. At the time I was working as a fantasy sports writer, and was participating in a fantasy baseball mock draft at AOL Fanhouse. I don’t remember how the conversation started, but at one point I was chatting with another mock drafter who said he ran a Pirates site. Within minutes the entire draft chat had been dominated by Pirates talk. I had read WHYGAVS before, but that was the first time I had ever “met” Pat Lackey.
Once the season started, I got an e-mail from Brian McElhinny, who runs Raise the Jolly Roger. Brian and a few other blogs were running live game chats (Cory at Three Rivers Burgh Blog, Jim at North Side Notch, Brad and Rich at This is Getting Old, and a few other people who either didn’t run blogs, or no longer run blogs). This was before Twitter really took off, so the live game chats were pretty amazing at the time with all of the instant reactions and conversations during the game.
I don’t exactly remember when I met other Pirates bloggers, such as Charlie from Bucs Dugout, Tom and Cocktails from Rumbunter, or David Todd from ESPN 970 (who I still haven’t met, despite the fact that I’ve been on his shows about 100 times over the years). However, I know that over the last few years every Pirates blogger has put in a ton of time that has been mostly dedicated to following a losing team, with no historical reason for hope that things could be better. The common criticism is that Pirates bloggers have always agreed with the team. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Every Pirates blogger has been critical of the moves the team made, but the overall feeling was that the team was heading in the right direction. That wasn’t a popular opinion to have for a lot of years. Tonight it was proven to be true, and for that I’m glad for all of the other Pirates bloggers who have dedicated years to writing about this team, some much longer than others.
But it doesn’t stop there. I said there were different Pirates communities, and the blogging section is only one of them. There are also the forums. One of my daily activities is to check the incoming links to see how others are responding to articles or topics. By doing this, I usually visit 5-6 Pirates forums per day. It’s amazing how many different places there are, and not only that, but how active people are in each place. I can think of about ten different Pirates forums off the top of my head, including off-topic forums on Steelers and Penguins sites. To have so many people dedicated to a team that had previously lost for 20 straight years is phenomenal. Tonight, I’m glad for all of the people posting on all of the forums because of the dedication they showed in keeping interest with this team. And that especially includes any forum posters who haven’t been my biggest fan over the years.
Then there’s the third group. The anonymous group. You hear the vocal minority, and that’s just what it is. One thing I’ve noticed from the traffic numbers on the site is that very few people speak up. The amount of people who participate in discussions here, or take those discussions to other forums or Twitter is small compared to the amount of daily readers on the site. There are so many people who just read and follow the Pirates, but don’t get involved in the online forums, or Twitter, or comments on the blogs. The fact that you don’t comment is meaningless, because you obviously still have the same dedication as everyone else. I’ve seen that first hand with the site growth each year, even though there was probably no reason for a Pirates site to grow so quickly from 2009-2011. Despite all of the losing, Pirates fans have craved information on the team. So tonight is for all Pirates fans, even if they don’t participate in the online discussions.
Tonight I’m proud to be connected to all of these groups, not to mention all of the people in the media that I’ve met over the years who have provided great coverage of this team. In my old job I used to have to search for information on every MLB team each morning. The Pirates always had the best information, and their information was the easiest to find. I still think that is true. There is no shortage of good Pirates content, whether that’s the mainstream media, blogs, forums, or just commenters or people talking on Twitter. And I feel that all of that is a result of the dedication and the demand from Pirates fans. There are very few teams who could lose for 20 years straight, yet see their fans maintain this level of interest in the day-to-day operations. The Pirates are one of them.
About ten years ago I joined a message board looking to connect with Pirates fans. Five years ago I started this site, hoping to add to the discussion on the team’s rebuilding. That put me in the same category as everyone else: striving to find more information on the Pirates while trying to find others who were talking about the same team. In the process I was connected to an amazing community, with many people who I consider friends. And tonight I’m glad for all of us.
Links and Notes