Luke Graham

Luke Graham

Luke Graham: Best story you’re not following

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Luke Graham

Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Luke here.

— As the baseball season hits the All-Star break, no one is paying attention to the best story in a barren sports landscape.

The NFL and NBA labor strifes? Please. College football being dirty? Surprise! Golf? Call when Tiger comes back.

No the best story going right now happens to take place in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates are over .500, in the thick of things in the National League Central and feature a young exciting team. If you don’t have a dog in the fight, root for the Pirates. If you still do, root for them to at least finish a game above .500.

To understand the Pirates, you have to understand the past 18 years. Pirates fans have known nothing but losing. They’re on an 18-year losing streak, the longest of any of the four major North American sports leagues.

Since 1993, the team hasn’t finished within five games of .500. It lost more than 100 games twice.

In those 18 seasons, the team finished last in its division eight times. The Pirates have lost 1,623 games, won 1,223 and constantly had one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. For three years, the team had a manager by the name of John Russell, who may or may not have been Steamboat Pilot & Today photographer John F. Russell managing remotely.

A Saturday blog by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Bob Smizik revealed what fans thought about the Pirates. In a Pick the Pirates Record contest, only 10 of 150 entries had the Pirates with a record above .500. Only 20 entries had the Pirates winning more than 75 games. Rightfully so, with 18 years of life-sucking, spirit-crushing baseball evidence to back it up.

But Pittsburgh is right in it. The team is battling it out in the NL Central with Milwaukee, St. Louis and Cincinnati. Cubs fans, you’re already out of it.

On Friday, the ballpark was full and rocking.

Baseball is back in Pittsburgh.

It’s a good baseball city. Heck, baseball is better when good baseball cities (Cleveland, Kansas City, Cincinnati to name a few) are competitive.

People are showing up in Pittsburgh because, for once, the Pirates are relevant. It’s July, and it’s not about the Steelers. It’s been awhile since a Pirates fan could say that.

It’s a proud franchise, owners of five World Series championships. It’s produced the likes of Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Dave Parker and pre circus Barry Bonds.

But then, the Pirates couldn’t touch mediocrity.

Sure there is plenty of the baseball season left for the Pirates to do what they normally do. They could tank, make it 19 years without a winning record and make what faithful fans they have left turn their attention to when the labor disputes end.

But for at least a little while in July, they’re above .500, the talk of the town and the best story in sports no one is paying attention to.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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