A signature example of this was Pedro Alvarez’s home run in the second game of the series. He hit the ball just over the left field fence and the fan who caught it was wearing Pirate gear.
While it’s difficult to say what percentage of the ballpark had Pirates’ fans in the seats, what was extremely clear was that the Buc fans who were on hand were the most vocal. Any time the Pirates got a hit, made a play or hit a home run, the roar of the Pirates’ fans was much louder than the corresponding reaction from Nationals’ fans when their team made a play.
Civic pride aside, there are a couple of obvious reasons for this and one not so obvious. The Pirates are having a great year and are in the hunt for the playoffs. Since Pittsburgh hasn’t seen anything like this involving baseball for the past 20 years, the positive reaction of the fans is to be expected.
But there’s something else.
Steelers’ fans across the country and around the world have earned the name “Steeler Nation.” This has come to stand for many former Pittsburghers who have moved elsewhere, yet still root passionately for their hometown team. And then there are many who’ve never been to Pittsburgh who somehow identify with the Steelers and have made the football team their own.
Now, here come the Pirates in the familiar black and gold colors, representing the same town the Steelers represent. They play a gritty, grind-it-out form of baseball that resonates with true baseball fans and anyone who just like a tough competitor. They have good players, but their roster isn’t filled with stars in the way the Yankees have been built.
The Pirates work together well as a team because they have to, because they are willing to, and because they can.
It’s summer time. Football season is a little over a month away. And so, Steeler nation is donning black and gold across the country for a baseball team representing Pittsburgh with the same competitiveness, drive and winning results that football fans have come to expect from the Steelers.
If the Pirates continue to win, they will see more and more Pittsburgh fans in the stands, making away games feel like home games. That alone tends to give teams a little extra energy and confidence when on the road. And that often leads to a few more wins.
In sports, it’s possible to see the effect consumer support can have on productivity and performance. Good fan support helps teams on several levels when they take the field. The Pirates are getting that now during this special season.
Steeler Nation for now is Pirate Nation, but really, it’s all just Pittsburgh Nation. The Pirates are tapping a reservoir of national goodwill towards a town and its teams that it may have underestimated prior to 2013.