Preparing Maura for a lifetime of sports heartache - Star Exponent: Columnists

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Preparing Maura for a lifetime of sports heartache

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Posted: Monday, April 8, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 4:58 am, Mon Apr 8, 2013.

(Editor's note: This column was written on Wednesday. Jeff's second daughter Maura was due on Friday.)

It's one of the toughest decisions a father will have to make — should I raise my daughter a Pittsburgh Pirate fan?

OK, yes, I'm being tongue-in-cheek for a second but it's a question that has crossed my mind with Maura being due. I grew up a Pirate fan. I've always been a Pirate fan. I'm not sure I ever picked them as my favorite baseball team — they just were.

My dad loves them. I remember him going on and on about Willie Stargell, Kent Tekulve, Roberto Clemente (obviously), old scrap iron Phil Garner and Chuck Tanner. I remember listening to their games with him while I played outside and he worked in the cellar. His team became my team.

One of my most vivid memories is from Oct. 14, 1992. It was game seven between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series. The winner would go on to the World Series, the loser would go home.

The Pirates led 2-0 coming into the bottom of the ninth inning. I recalled talking about how excited I was to see the Pirates in the World Series. I sat on our living room floor, my dad behind me in his rocking chair, watching with anticipation.

That moment of jubilation never came. In a now infamous half inning, the Pirates imploded. Stan Belinda blew the save. Jose "Chico" Lind booted a ball and Barry Bonds — don't even get me started on him.

I sat there, tears streaming down my face. It was my first real sports heartbreak and I'll always remember it. That was the last winning season the Pirates had. It's been 20, more than likely going on 21 years, of losing. And yet I've stuck by them.

I've gone to countless games. I was there when they played the last game at Three Rivers Stadium. I was there at the first game at PNC Park. I've purchased season tickets, TV packages, radio packages and I've traveled five hours one way to see a game.

When Mady was born, I questioned if I would bring her up the loving this team the same way I have. I have. I've bought her little Pirate shirts, I've talked to her about baseball and while she's still young I can tell it's taken root.

Now, with Maura due Friday (by the time you read this, she'll probably be here), I find myself asking the question all over again.

I'll certainly raise her a Steeler and Penguin fan, but they've almost always been consistent in my lifetime. They've won championships, they've had winning seasons, they've been able to keep star players.

The Pirates have done none of those things. Every year I think they'll turn the corner and I'll be able to gloat I've been with them the whole time.

Each year I'm disappointed. Last year they were 16 games over .500 in August, my friends and I began talking playoffs, then they collapsed. They finished three games under .500.

This spring, I haven't had the same enthusiasm about the team. I've been distracted by babies, surgeries and work.

But when I think about the future, it includes me standing in beautiful PNC Park with my two girls, happily watching as they jockey for position to get an autograph and laugh as the Pirate Parrot does his gyrations.

So yes, Maura, you'll be a Pirate fan. You can blame your dad.

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