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Why Do Pirate Fans Hate Each Other?

Pittsburgh Pirates team president Frank Coonelly and owner Bob Nutting listen as general manager Neal Huntington speaks to the media concerning the trade of outfielder Andrew McCutchen at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. The San Francisco Giants Giants found the outfielder they were looking for this winter, acquiring McCutchen from Pittsburgh on Monday to fill a key void. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

Are Pirates’ fans mad at each other or just Bob Nutting?
Photo by Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Twitter ?and the internet in general ?is a hellscape. Anyone who uses it with any regularity is aware of this. A more specific cesspool those reading will be familiar with is that of ?Pirates Twitter ?, a constant vitriolic back-and-forth between those with differing ideologies. Whether between local media members, fans, or sometimes even the players themselves, there constantly seems to be a war going on over something.

Everything seems to be fair game, from name calling, belittling, questioning ?true fandom ?, anger over how someone chooses to spend their money, and even threats of physical violence. To me, most all of this is unnecessary, and I try my best to stay out of it. Sports are supposed to be fun, an escape, and I try never to question or put down someone else for having a hobby that isn ?t hurting anyone. However, it makes me wonder just why this behavior is so consistent ?why do fans hate each other? An answer recently hit me, so I decided to consider it.

Horizontal Violence

A term coined by psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, it ?s the idea that people will often take out anger and frustrations with someone in a higher position of power on people in their own lives. Basically, the person who the aggrieved truly have the problem with is any combination of unreachable and/or untouchable. Even if action could be taken against them, it probably will have zero impact on the issue at hand, or could possibly result in negative consequences, so it ?s worthless or untenable to try. Therefore, when all recourse is out of reach, the only way to feel better ?reasonable or not ?is to transpose the feelings onto others who are actually reachable.

I was first introduced to this theory in an episode of the podcast Hidden Brain. The topic at hand was people taking their issues with political candidates out on those who reflected ideas, feelings, and actions of those candidates. I found the idea fascinating, as I related it to events in my own life, and I ?ve been keeping it in my back pocket ever since. In my opinion, it ?s a perfect explanation of what ?s happening among Pirate fans, with the ?oppressor ? in this scenario being one of the most hated men in Pittsburgh sports — Bob Nutting.

First off, I want to make it clear I personally have no issues with Nutting. I think he receives undue criticism and vitriol from fans for simply owning a baseball team and more-or-less operating it as a business, nothing different from most every owner in sports or business in general. Qualms that may be better assigned to the system in place, Pittsburgh as a baseball market, or any other number of factors are all piled on him ?fairly or not ?and he ?s become the face of all of it. Please don ?t let this opinion derail any thought, consideration, or discussion on my actual topic at hand, because it ?s more important and what I actually want to contemplate.

If the original discussion was on politics, Nutting is almost a perfect facsimile of a political candidate ?a public figure of power and prestige who ?s hated by many, supported by others, and viewed with indifference by those in-between. This is not where the comparables end, however. For the regular folk subject to the powerful whims of these individuals, there is no such thing as interaction. There is no conversation or dialogue, letting your opinions or ideas be heard, or any other way to let your personal feelings be known. Nutting, unlike many political figures, doesn ?t even have to make public appearances, in which outcry can be more intimately felt. Really, if not for a yearly sit-down with local media every spring, we might not even be able to prove he exists.

So, if fans can ?t personally meet with Nutting to air their grievances, public displays of displeasure have a chance to institute change, right? Unfortunately for many, this doesn ?t seem to be the case either. Fan boycotts seem to largely have fallen on deaf ears, and a mass exodus of fans from PNC Park over the last couple of seasons seems to have done little to change the Pirates ? game plan, aside from possibly resulting in lower payrolls. If these seemingly important displays have done little to nothing to force change, obviously token gestures like ?Spend Nutting, Win Nutting ? t-shirts or random Twitter hashtags are going to be completely futile as well.

What are fans to do then, when they think their opinions don ?t matter, they can ?t force change no matter how hard they try, and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel? Lash out at others of course, as already has been discussed. The next best thing is to shift blame to those who aren ?t to blame at all ?fans that still support the team, watch on TV, and (gasp) have the gall to attend a game and give even a penny to the team and those in charge. Is this actually going to change anything? Obviously not, but in some twisted way it probably makes them feel better, because someone is at least paying attention to what they have to say. Twitter makes for an even better forum for their grievances, because others will see their opinion, and there will either be the opportunity for their opinions to be affirmed by others or to shoot down more dummies who don ?t agree with them.

It ?s a shame that this is what it has come to ?fans of the same team taking sides, one degrading the other out of anger, while the other is forced to defend a stance that really needs no defending. To me, anger over something as arbitrary as sports fandom is silly, but even worse is placing blame at the feet of those who have literally nothing to do with it and negatively impacting the lives of others in the process. If you are going to be angry, be self-aware enough to direct the anger at those who deserve it and leave the innocent out of it. However, it ?s passion and emotion that causes sports fans to do things that many from the outside see as crazy. The bigger problem is when that emotion becomes toxic, and we ?ve long passed that point in Pirates ? fandom.

So, I would call for everyone involved to be kind ?there ?s no need for this much hatred and animosity. Ultimately, we all want the same thing, and that ?s for the Pirates to be successful. There ?s no need to turn on those who are wearing the same colors.

Finally, I think we all realize what ?s really important and who truly deserves the ire from every side of the Pirates fan base ?

The ?Wooers ?.

We can all agree they are the worst.

Ethan is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. An Accountant by trade, Ethan is passionate about the business of sports and won't apologize for enjoying it more than the actual games. He's a believer in analytics, hasn't played a game since little league, and can be contacted via Twitter @EthanHullihen

12 Comments on Why Do Pirate Fans Hate Each Other?

  1. People in the PGH area are the most bitter people that I know. That lackbof optimism and collective anger caused me to move from the area long ago. I attribute it to the mills, both the pollution that hung so heavily and then the job loses when they closed. Some people recovered, many, including their families, remain angry victims and continue to hold resentment. Nutting is the embodiment of the company execs that they blame for the closure of the mills and everything that has caused struggle since.

  2. Scott Walters // April 26, 2019 at 2:38 PM //

    There are fans who accept anything and everything Nutting does and they accept it gleefully. Others want championships and are not willing to settle with an owner who is not all in…

    • Those of us that accept what Nutting and the FO does with expenses have had the experience of making payroll, paying overhead and making a living while setting aside reserves for downturns.

    • There are fans who accept anything and everything Nutting does and they accept it gleefully. Others want championships and are not willing to settle with an owner who is not all in.


    • You have obviously never spent a week in the City of Brotherly Hate. That said, you have a point. The fans, and to an extent, the people of Pittsburgh are impotent. They cannot change , they struggle to no effect.

      I truly wish Nutting actually gave a damn about the city and its fans. he may, but it is way behind dollars. Poor people do not scorn the rich, but they do scorn the idea that someone doesn’t care about them and is only taking advantage of them. People of Pittsburgh instead of quitting games, should go to games. For I fear the moment the Pirates fall below his profit line, he will up and move the team to Vegas, or Charlotte.

      and then they will … resigned

  3. I think a big part of hatred (for me it is lack of respect) of Nutting is that it appears that he, NH and FC basically lie to fans about team goals of winning championships. They will try to a point but then it becomes to risky and they tread water. They hope for a miracle season rather than try to put together a championship caliber team.

    • that is a good point, the team does have to do all those things. Of course not many other businesses see their business values rise as rapidly either.

  4. It is obvious that Nutting is not interested in winning. As the article stated, he runs it like a business. I don’t disagree with that assessment but I also don’t encourage professional sports teams to operate in that fashion. I’ve been a Pirates fan since 1960 and surely would like to see more winning and less struggling to be a .500 team. If, he was losing money, he would sell the team. Economics isn’t everything.

    • Ethan Hullihen // April 27, 2019 at 9:13 AM //

      Many fans always say the FO has no interest in winning, but I disagree. I believe they want to win, just is a different way then fans believe is best.

      As for economics, I disagree as well. If you ran a business, would you want to lose money? We can argue they may not be maximizing profits, but who knows.

  5. Skip Tophat // April 27, 2019 at 2:58 PM //

    How funny that one of the biggest violators of decorum of the Pirates Facebook page(s) is on here spewing his normal anti-Nutting pablum. Almost nobody accepts “gleefully” every move that management makes (or doesn’t make), but his exaggerations are almost as legendary as his often angry accusations, and his over the top bullying tactics.

  6. You’re absolutely right about the woo jagoff. He’s the only one I’ve ever heard any actual violence advocated against, and that none has come to pass in 7 years is proof that either miracles do happen, or that there is no god.

  7. It ?s so hard to even watch a game on tv anymore ! First of all Joe Block is one of the worse announcer I have ever heard since following and listening to baseball since I was a 13 yo boy on 1976! Second of all I have to turn off the sound due to all the wooing! Which don ?t belong in the ballpark ! Do that at your kid little league game or the prom ! No place in baseball for it! Your ruining the game for the true fans not the fireworks and bobble head fans! And as for the owners! Maybe if there was a min teams had to spend then they will put a team that may win a championship! All the moves they make r based on cost and years of control before the salary goes up! What ?s the highest pay contact on the team now 10.8 million and that ends as the season does ! And forget about buying a jersey with a players name on it caused after 6 years they r gone unless they sign a team friendly deal !

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