On November 15, 1990, music producer Frank Ferian confessed to a group of reporters that Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, the duo known as Milli Vanilli, had not sung a single note on their Grammy Award-winning debut album. Public backlash was immediate. Their Grammy Award was revoked; jokes at their expense were omnipresent on the late night talk show circuit; Arista Records dropped them like a hot potato; lawsuits were filed; and, somewhere in the drab, cultureless reaches of suburban South Florida, the worst fears of a lonely 13-year old boy were confirmed - "being mainstream sucks out loud."
Roughly one month before, my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates - a team I had religiously followed for years via yellowed Pittsburgh Post-Gazette clippings sent by my grandmother - lost the National League Divisional Series to the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates had the better record of the two teams (95-67) and featured a trio of childhood heroes: centerfielder and prankster Andy Van Slyke, blue collar third baseman Bobby Bonilla, and a leftfielder still more than a decade away from steroid allegations named Barry Bonds. I tore their posters off my wall in a rage.
My family had only recently relocated to South Florida from a small town on the North Fork of Long Island. But I wasn't from New York. I wasn't from anywhere, really. Pittsburgh had long been my ideological hometown despite my having never actually lived there. I was born in Pennsylvania, though, and that was good enough for me. Pittsburgh was aligned in my teenage mind with Christmas, snow, family and Pirates baseball. I remember thinking to myself, "someday, when I can choose for myself where I am to live, I will move to the big city of Pittsburgh, get season tickets to Pirates games and ride the incline to Fort Pitt daily." I was just a kid who hated humidity.
As a Pirates fan, I suffered through three years on Long Island inundated with the New York Mets - the Pirates then-rivals for the National League East. I loathed the Mets at that time, or more accurately, I could not stand growing up surrounded by fans of my arch rivals. To make matters worse, I moved to that small town as the new kid and left it three years later with the same label. Classmates had never left the Island in their lives. I was rambunctious, arrogant and prone to emotional outbursts. Displaced, I took solace in championing the Buccos. I chose to go against the grain. I chose this path.
This period of my life served to define who I would become as an adult, who many other Pirates fans would become - and it is the launching-off point for analysis that I postulate defines the very essence of Americans in 2007.More soon…