Whether its Browns and Steelers or Indians and Pirates, that Cleveland-Pittsburgh divide for sports fans' devotion so evident in our own area can be quite passionate.
Eighty-one. It's a number of massive significance to a baseball fan. It means the difference between a season of defeat and a season of victory, of an autumn with opportunity.
For fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, 81 is a sweet numeral, one that destroys the number 20 and won't allow anything to add up to 21.
With a victory on last Tuesday night over Milwaukee, the Pittsburgh Pirates shed the name tags "hapless" and "struggling" and stomped them into the dirt.
With a ninth-inning home run by Travis Snider, the Pirates put the opportunity to let another season slip by with a losing record numerically behind them, earning a 4-3 victory over a team that has been a thorn in the Bucs' side even as the team has improved in recent years.
What is impressive and remarkable about the Pirates is the teamwork. One gets the sense that this is a group of guys who sacrifice for one another in a way fans always secretly hope in their hearts can still be found in professional sports.
It has been a lifetime for younger Pittsburgh baseball fans. Indeed, Gerrit Cole, the starting pitcher, was 2 years old the last time the Pirates had 81 wins, on Sept. 9, 1992. That was back during the Bonds and Leyland era.
This means a fall with excitement. Fans of a team who have waited for so long are finally be able to let down and breathe a sigh of relief that other teams are in the cellar now. Of course, raised achievement brings raised expectations, and fans will be rooting to see if the Pirates can hold off the Cardinals and Reds and win a division title. That would mean - heart be still - the playoffs. At worst, the Pirates should clinch a wild card position.
We congratulate the team for the achievement and join those rooting for growing and continuing success. It's been a long time coming for Pittsburgh Pirates fans. Enjoy it and savor it. And for all you Cleveland Indians fans there is still abundant hope.?Heck, when was the last time you were turning from a telecast of the Browns to watch the Indians? Many likely did just that yesterday. Who would've imagined!