Tales of pirates and Pirates

There’s been plenty of talk about pirates in the air during the past few days.

For starters, there was Tuesday’s announcement that Richard Phillips would be the next presenter in the Herald-Star, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Speaker Series.

Phillips was the captain of the Maersk Alabama when the cargo ship was captured by pirates in April 2009. He was held hostage in a small lifeboat by the attackers for five tension-filled days during which the eyes of the world were riveted on the waters off the coast of Somalia. His ordeal finally ended when Navy SEALS took out his captors in one of the perfectly orchestrated actions that can only be successfully pulled off by members of United States special forces.

His is a compelling tale, one that was shared in the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Dangerous Days at Sea.” It’s such a good story, in fact, that Sony Pictures turned it into the film, “Captain Phillips.”

While the movie and book do a very good job of capturing the tension of the incident, getting the chance to hear Phillips offer a first-person description of what happened in the ocean during those few days in the early spring of 2009 is something to be anticipated.

It’s interesting to note, too, that when Phillips speaks at 7:30 p.m. April 3 in the auditorium at Steubenville High School, it will be almost five years to the day when his hostage drama began on April 8, 2009.

“Captain Phillips,” the movie, has earned six Academy Award nominations, and offers a powerful dramatization of the incident. Among the Oscars the film will compete for on March 2 are best picture, best supporting actor (Barkhad Abdi) and best adapted screenplay.

As most of the 150 or so people who gathered at Eastern Gateway Community College Tuesday to hear the official announcement and watch a free showing of the film will attest, it’s a taut thriller, made all the more interesting because it’s a true story.

And, by telling that real-life story, the book and film provide a fresh perspective on the real world for young and old alike.

It’s a reminder that for all the glitz and glamour that surrounds pirate lore, the swashbuckling lives, as portrayed by Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, are a far cry from the brutal world of today’s real pirates. There’s is deadly game with real-world consequences.

That said, area residents will be turning their attention to another group of Pirates – Pittsburgh, not Somali – later this week.

Our Pirates are scheduled to open spring training Wednesday when pitchers and catchers report to Bradenton, Fla. The remainder of the roster will report on Feb. 17, with the first spring training game scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Feb. 26 against the Yankees at McKechnie Field.

After the winter weather we’ve experienced during the past month or so, it’s important to note that opening day for the 2014 season is near. It’s March 31, as a matter of fact, and the Pirates will take on the Chicago Cubs at 1:05 p.m. that day in PNC Park.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)