2013 marked the first time in two decades, the Pirates finally had a winning baseball season.
What does it mean to the psyche of a city to end the longest consecutive season losing streak in the history of the four major professional sports leagues?
Writer Charlie Wilmoth attempts to answer that question in his newly published book Dry Land, Winning After 20 Years At Sea With The Pittsburgh Pirates.
Wilmoth grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia and says he has always felt a special connection to Pittsburgh. He has been writing about the Pirates for the past 10 years and explained what it was like to be a Buccos fan during the losing streak.
“Being a serious fan during that time has been really hard because you have to compartmentalize, you have to distance yourself from the team at certain points or else you’re just going to be a miserable person. So you know trying to figure out how a perpetual loser fits into your life is really tricky if you want to be serious about it.”
The perpetual losses can be particularly hard on morale.
“When we watch sports games, one of the reasons why we watch them is to get a sense of who we are," Wilmoth explained "We look for identity when we root for sports team and psychologically, it turns out that when we watch a player strike out, the same stuff goes on in our brain as if we, ourselves, were striking out. So when the Pirates lose in a sense we feel ourselves losing. So when the Pirates lose for 20 seasons in a row, it really did damage to our identities.”
Dry Land also explores the experiences of fans from all generations, from those that have never seen a winning Pirates team, to older fans who remember the good old days.