Some tandems are just meant to be. Nachos and cheese, Starsky and Hutch, Simon and Garfunkel steak and potatoes-just to name a few. Another ideal match would be Mark Cuban and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cuban
, grew up in Mt. Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh, and is a life-long Pirates fan. Last summer, Cuban, the outspoken and eccentric owner of the Dallas Mavericks, informed the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he had an interest in purchasing the team.
"If they ever decided to sell, I'd definitely be interested in taking a look," Cuban said. "But I'm certainly not the type to be proactive about it because that's not fair to Kevin."
Kevin McClatchy, CEO and managing general partner, who became owner of the Pirates on Feb. 14, 1996, but has yet to show any love to the sports fans of Pittsburgh. Since he started his reign as ruler of the Pirates, the team has no world series, no division titles, no wild card playoff berths and no winning seasons. The city Pittsburgh has certainly seen better days, but the blue collar crowd still loves to show up in full force to support Ben Roethlisberger and the five-time super bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Back in the day when the Steelers and Pirates shared their home field at Three Rivers Stadium,
Pitt fans saw legendary sports stars such as Barry Bonds, Willie Stargel, Roberto Clemente, Lynn Swann and Terry Bradshaw wear city colors of black and yellow. Now, the Steelers are upholding their tradition of fielding all stars such as Ben Roethlisberger and Jerome Bettis, while the Pirates are wheeling out no-namers such as John Grabow and trading away promising pitching prospects like Kris Benson.
The team's suffering has become so prolonged that disgruntled fans even started a website www.buyusmark.com
, where fans can purchase shirts that read "Please buy us Mark." One of the primary reasons for the Pirates blunders has been a lack of finances. McClatchy is renowned for his stingy payrolls and is viewed by most baseball fans as a greedy owner who is at typical product of baseball's structure, which, unlike other pro sports, has no high cap or low cap for each team's salary. During his interview with the Gazette, Cuban referenced the recent completion of PNC park as a sign of progress and change, but everyone knows that a winning team is the only way to fill the seats.
"They've done their best with the Pirates, getting the stadium built," he said. "I think the Pirates have a great young nucleus for the future."
While the ballpark may be a nice upgrade, most baseball analysts don't see much of a silver lining in the team's future. Until the owners are committed to paying the hefty salaries that are needed to bring in superstars, the Pirates will continue to dwindle below mediocrity. If anyone can revive the team's financial situation, Cuban is the man. In addition to starting Microsolutions, his main cash cow, he earned his way to college by teaching disco lessons and making 1,100 dollars from a chain letter. Baseball, perhaps more than any sport, is defined by its history, and many baseball purists would object to the arrival of an innovative owner who thrives from being a nonconformist. Bud Selig, one of the most out of touch owners in professional sports, would likely have several qualms about the NBA's bad boy owner presiding over PNC park. But baseball could use some new blood in its veins, particularly after the amount of steroid problems that have plagued the league.
After all, when Jack Norworth wrote the original version of the seventh inning stretch anthem "Take me out to the ball game", in 1908, he had never even seen a baseball game. Other skeptics, including Pittsburgh residents, insist that the Pirates will never recover, regardless of the owner, because they claim the city is too much of a football town. Sound familiar? Cuban knows the demands of marketing a secondary sport in a football dominated city. Don't forget, he renovated the Mavericks and engineered them into one of the most talented teams in the league, while attracting and hooking the same fans who put their heart and soul into "America's team", the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps, in the dreams of Pirate's fans everywhere, there's a day in the near future, we'll see Cuban spraying champagne in the locker rooms at PNC park, holding a World Series trophy and shouting, "How 'bout those Pirates!"