I promised a recap and didn't realize it was this long so I had to sadly make it a fanshot.
Heading to the game, I gave pause about wearing my Cardinals gear. Over the last two year, there had been a shift in the way Pirates fans treated fans of other teams. With this being a playoff game and after hearing the story about Dallas Latos, I thought it best for me and my wife to go pretty low key. I did bring my Cardinals hat in a bag and wore a Cardinals lanyard. As we pulled into the usual parking lot we parked in, a fan spotted my Cardinals hat in the backseat. He started screaming, "Hey! Hey! Don't let this guy park here!" The attendant, realizing the way the guy was acting and seeing my lanyard, waived us to another section quickly...away from the tailgaters.
Walking into the stadium, my wife and I agreed we would try to find other Cardinals fans to be near. I can honestly say, this was the fewest number of Cardinals fans I'd seen at PNC. On the other hand, this was also the fewest number of Pirates fans I'd ever seen. I have been coming to PNC since the first month it opened and generally what you saw of the fans there were 'baseball' fans. People who cheered a hit, got loud for a rally but for the most part enjoyed the game (when they could). Something started to change. Gone are the parents and kids. Gone are the guys who have been 'coming to Buccos games for years'. They've been replaced by the Affliction crowd. They've been replaced by Steelers fans. They've been replaced by people who cheer with an arrogance, no longer so much concerned with how well their team is doing but rather to make sure the players and fans of the other team know how much 'they suck'.
We found a table in standing room out in the bleachers and decided to hang out there. From here, we were able to mostly see the game. We gave each other a subtle fist bump under the table when Holliday went deep. We got strange looks when we hugged each other when Martinez got out of the 8th. The people that kept bumping into us like we weren't there looked confused when I told my wife "Damn, there goes the no hitter!" However, we were protected from the wind and had a good view of the game and the fans.
What we saw was a mixture of people too busy drinking beer to pay attention to the game and people more concerned with everything Matt Holliday to know the score. Not every fan was like this. There was a LARGE number of fans who seemed great. However, they weren't nearly as loud as the 'Waaaa-chaaaa' contingent.
The game started with a bang. Marp striking out fueled them. They grew louder. When the Pirates came to bat in the first, they were out for blood. Not scoring in the first seemed to take something out of the crowd. As the game progressed, the volume went down. The fans had less to cheer about. When Holliday hit the homerun, the air was let out of the balloon. They no longer had the energy to rally for their team and cheer. Instead, all they had energy left to do was scream at Matt. People like this, I'm certain, exist at Busch. I don't understand it and never had.
When Alvarez hit the homerun, the crowd exploded. Suddenly, they believed the Wacha chants were working. When Martin walked, they were certain they were effecting the outcome of the game. When Martinez closed out the 8th, they were stunned. It was the quietest it had ever been and I had been there for some Padres/Pirates day games in the rain with about 2,500 people. Even the stadium music and animation guys forgot to play something. Finally, the realized Boob Butt was coming in but the fans couldn't muster the effort to get fired up.
In the 9th, the cheering never reached the levels it had at the beginning of the game. As Walker reached, the fans did get loud again but at the same time, they actually were quieter during Cutch's at-bat. I imagine this was just nervousness, more than anything. And then it was over. The fans, as if the bright light that had been attracting them had just shut off, turned and filed out. No lingering to cheer for the hometown boys in the last chance they may have at it. Five minutes after the game was over, there were maybe 1,000 fans left in the lower levels taking pictures. The concourse level was packed to the gills with fans silently moving out. The ground was littered with torn up ticket stubs and crushed beer cans. I was able to actually find one only crumpled ticket stub to add to the collection.
The fans, on a whole, weren't some terrible entity. As my wife said, "Could you imagine how awful it would have been if they were winning!" Something has changed, though in Pittsburgh. I've been going to games at PNC since it opened. The fans, on the whole, have been good sports about things and supportive of their teams (no matter how bad they were). However, this group has been infiltrated. They've been outshouted by men who are proud of their Affliction shirts and women dressed from head-to-toe in Michael Kors, Sperry and a Pirates shirt they just bought from a vendor on the way in. You can still find the diehards, in an old battered Starter jacket or carrying their Zach Duke Stadium giveaway tote. However, they are being outshouted by the group that believes everyone else sucks. They are confrontational. They are...Steelers fans.