Pittsburgh Feels Detroit's Pain

On the surface, one wouldn’t think Detroit and Pittsburgh have much in common. After all, Pittsburgh was recently named America’s #1 sports city. Detroit came in 10th. Let’s be honest, SportingNews is just confirming what we’ve known all along.

As football fans, comparing our two cities is like comparing Star Wars to BioDome. In 2008, the Detroit Lions had the worst season in NFL history. They went oh-for the entire year, losing every game. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers had about as good a season as there’s ever been. They survived the toughest regular season schedule any team faced in the last 30 years, then went on to win Super Bowl XLIII for their unprecedented sixth championship.

Now, I’m sure you expect me to belittle the Lions. To mock them for being such a pitiful franchise. To shake my head in disgust at their lousy ownership and inept management. I’m sure you’re even wondering why a proud city would even bother to support such a lowly team.

And that’s when I say the magic words: Pittsburgh Pirates.

Despite our many successes, the Pittsburgh sports fan knows the stench of failure all too well. While our two other professional teams set the bar for being world class, we have the Pirates to keep us humble. Pittsburgh baseball fans know what it’s like for a once great franchise to suffer the slings and arrows of lousy ownership and inept management. And we know that despite the embarrassment, we stay loyal.

Coming into this season, the Lions were mired in a 19-game losing streak. The team has won just a single playoff game in 51 seasons.  To think Pittsburghers still mourn losing that Wild Card game to the Jaguars. Despite their level of futility, Detroit sold out its opener at Ford Field, capacity 65,000.

Not long ago, the Pirates clinched their 17th straight losing season. That’s longer than any other franchise in any major sport in North American history. Think about how utterly incompetent you have to be to go 17 years without winning one more game than you lost. It boggles the mind. Toward the end of the season, the Bucs were mired in a slump where they would win only 3 times during a 20 game stretch. And yet, on a seasonable Saturday night during the final homestand of the year, 38,000 fans crammed into PNC Park.

Okay, they were probably there for the Foreigner concert but just go with it.

The point is that no matter how rotten your team is, and believe me both these teams are rotten, you can’t change who you root for. Well, you can, but those people are fair-weather asshats. The people of Detroit grew up Lions fans and continue to support their team even in the face of certain doom. Pittsburghers, even though we’re the City of Champions, still have room in their hearts for those bumbling idiots of the diamond.

After all, we still have our other teams to root for. Pittsburgh has their Penguins and Steelers. Detroit has their Red Wings and Tigers. Which reminds me, even though the Tigers were in the World Series as recently as three years ago, we even share some baseball-related pain. Both cities know what it feels like to watch a Jim Leyland managed team completely self-destruct in a do-or-die playoff game.

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