Sporting events are special in their immediacy. I know I’m not alone in this; probably the only reason I still have cable today is because of Penguins, Steelers and (gasp!) Pirates games. Nobody DVRs a sporting event and then tries to avoid spoilers, it’s understood that you either didn’t watch the game or you didn’t. And if you ask enough sports fans, you know it doesn’t matter how big your flat screen at home is, there is nothing quite like being at the game. Being a small part of a 18,000 strong crowd is entirely unique. Just think about every person in the crowd, riding the same emotional roller coaster, cheering or groaning with every play. But what can you do when you want to be part of the atmosphere, but your baseball team is suddenly good and the cheapest ticket is $200? In Pittsburgh, the current trend is to close down a street and set up a big screen. Mario’s TV has been active in the playoffs for years now, and recently the Pirates set one up on Federal Street during their own playoff run.
*pictures were hard to find, probably because I don’t know how to work Twitter. The above image was taken from a WPXI video located here.
Of course there is the experience of being part of a crowd, singularly pulling for the team to win. But if it were just about being a part of a like-minded crowd you could go to a bar and not have to take discreet sips from a flask like an alcoholic. First, being outdoors and facing the elements creates an added layer of camaraderie. Not only are you all there rooting for your team, but you’re all better than sissies who couldn’t stand a little rain, and you’re certainly better than the cowardly visiting team that plays in their precious “dome”. Also, there’s also a lot to be said for the act of taking over a public area to watch the game.
Occupying somewhere you’re not supposed to be confers a sense of power; it’s tangible evidence that this game means something. That this game is bigger than your living room, bigger than some bar, bigger than a little pocket park. You’re shutting down an entire city street along with a thousand other people who are there to hold their breath with you before every pitch, slowly rise in open-mouthed anticipation at the crack of a bat, and scream with you when the ball lands in the visitor’s bullpen.
In a few minutes the Pirates will start the game that could send them to the NLCS for the first time in 21 years. Regardless of the result, I’m betting the people having the most fun will be on the Roberto Clemente Bridge.