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"Picture if you will, a baseball franchise that has disenchanted its fanbase for almost two decades, began to show signs of winning that had not be seen for years. Along with strong pitching to start, and a few gimmicks, which included making a "Z" with the left hand on top, this scrappy bunch began to roll off wins during the hot, crazy summer. But a rough second half has left them with over-managing, lighter crowds, and fans impersonating the Ric Flair "woo" in an annoying and incorrect way. Are things turning back to normal, or did the Pittsburgh Pirates just happen to enter...The Twilight Zone."
A little over-dramatic? Yeah. But let's face it, this has been a crazy year for the Pittsburgh Pirates. After falling apart last season in late July, the Bucs found themselves in the same position as last summer. The only difference this year, the Pirates are taking their relevance into September. For almost two decades, most Pittsburgh sports fans were gearing up for the Steelers season as camp opened in July.
The Pirates were in contention for the National League Central division and in a pennant race. They technically are still in it, but it looks bleak. Pittsburgh is now four game above .500 and three games out of the last wild card spot (3.5 pending what St. Louis does tonight against the Dodgers). The first winning year since 1992 is slowly disappearing as the days pass.
Despite the sudden collapse, the Pirates have enjoyed larger crowds, more love from the fans and optimism that had not been seen in years this season. The stupid gimmicks like the "Zoltan" and now the dumb Rick Flair "woo" had made its way into PNC Park and Great American Ballpark over the past week. A little out of the ordinary, but it sold t-shirts and foam Zoltans, didn't it? Fans from other teams looked at Pirate fans like they were from another planet. Some bought in, others didn't. That's where the "Twilight Zone" genre plays its part.
With the season in a tailspin and the optimism turning to pessimism as summer turns to fall, it seems that the normal sense of normalcy has returned (for Pittsburgh sports fans anyway). If the "Ric Flair" woo should continue and the Zoltan is still flashed until October, this may keep the Pirates stuck in....The Twilight Zone.
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