I was in Pittsburgh this past weekend hanging out with my brother Patrick and his friend from high school, Teddy, doing all sorts of Pittsburgh-y things. Very fun but very exhausting! But for starters, here’s the story of our adventures Saturday night at the old ball game-
The Pittsburgh Pirates take on the Houston Astros! I know, I can hear your excitement too- the Pirates? The only thing we hold a record for is the most number of years of never going to the playoffs- 17 so far, and well on our way to #18. Seeing as I’m 24 years old this is a fancy way of saying I just plain can’t remember a time when they were good, which is a shame because Pittsburgh is such a big sports town that we’d undoubtedly support our baseball team quite a bit if they had a chance of being good. (To be fair though they did win this game against Houston 12-6, so I guess I should be nice to them as they average 2 runs a game so they spent six games worth of runs on us.) Unfortunately the terrible management of the team combined with the way salaries aren’t capped in baseball are just too much for us- for example, the New York Yankees pay more on average to one player on their team than Pittsburgh pays to the entire team!
The crazy thing though is if you look at the picture the stadium is full despite the odds being less than 50% of seeing a win at home in PNC Park. So why do Pittsburghers sell out the stadium even if the Buccos suck? For the experience, of course, and to explain let’s start at the beginning by the river walk-
Here’s a little secret about Pittsburgh everyone who’s been knows and everyone who hasn’t is amazed at upon visiting- it’s actually insanely pretty. Geography plays a huge role in it- downtown is built on a point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers combine to start the Ohio so downtown is as compact as a much larger city (most non-constrained cities sprawl so it’s not as dramatic- think Cleveland), surrounded by more bridges than Venice and surrounding hillsides. I know many people think of the terrible pollution from the steel mills when they think of Pittsburgh, but the fact of the matter is they’ve been gone several decades now and I’ve only known my hometown as a place that often makes lists for the best skylines in the world. And I might be biased, but after 35 countries I am convinced Pittsburgh is one of the prettiest ones.
Anyway, above are a few shots on the way to the stadiums along the river walk (we’re on the Allegheny shore here), where a lot of other people are enjoying the day along with us. My only complaint is the beautiful large fountain at the point wasn’t running and Teddy told us it was because of budget cuts, and the thought that the city decided to get rid of such an icon was quite saddening.
Anyway, we’ve finally wandered over to the stadium and there’s a band outside playing Italian songs- it turns out it’s Italian Appreciation Night, which appears to be a fancy excuse for playing Italian-ish songs between innings that croon “when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza-pie…” And here we touch on why the Pirates are a successful business model: it’s not about the game! Rather it’s about the experience of having stuff like random Italian songs and fireworks and, I do not make this up, people running races in giant pirogi costumes. Certainly an experience one can have fun with, and incidentally there’s a baseball game going on almost as background noise.
Once we find our seats in the park the stadium does reams to help the experience go on too! PNC Park is the best ballpark in America- I’ve never heard someone with expertise say otherwise- starting with the awesome view of the city of course. But then they have details like an awesome playground for little kids by the water and bars and other details like that so everyone’s guaranteed to have a good time even if we only sat in our seats for maybe half the innings!
Finally the piece de resistance at the end of the game, the fireworks! There are several fireworks nights throughout the year (because odds are you’re not going to have a win, remember) that are a sight to behold and put the other fireworks shows I’ve seen this year to shame. Most are shot off from the water but a few also go off the skyscrapers in the background, which all in all is an amazing sight.
The Cendes twins strike a pose at the end of the night, very happy. And hey why shouldn’t we be? We’re young, in a beautiful city, just had a great time at the ballgame and are about to head over to the new casino to watch the spectacle others parting with hundreds of dollars. (I love to watch roulette but can’t bring myself to play!) On a summer night with friends and family and the ever-beautiful skyline behind us, it’s hard not to love Pittsburgh.