I'm going to say this very quietly, so maybe the Baseball gods don't hear.
This might be the year.
No, wait, give me a minute. I know what you're thinking. I know that August hasn't been kind, not in nearly 20 years has it been kind. I know that this August hasn't been kind, either.
This might be it. When was the last time we reached the last gasp of August and games still meant something? When was last time they - you know who I'm talking about - clawed their way to the end of August still above that mythical .500 mark? When was the last time we were at the end of August, seriously discussing whether they might manage to snatch that last wildcard spot?
I mean, are we really talking about playoff chances? In August?
So this year - it could be the year.
Most of the time, when a sports fanbase proclaims it "the year," they mean everything - the Commissioner's Trophy, the Stanley Cup, the Lombardi. Here, when fans whisper about "the year" - and anything louder than a whisper is treated with scorn by embittered vets - it means something more prosaic, more modest and maddenly elusive.
But still, this year ...
The Long Suffering Husband has been hoping for so long, and, as our son has gravitated toward sharing that inexplicable, reverent love for the game, he's been hoping, too.
He's learned the names at his daddy's knee - Wagner, Traynor, Waner, Kiner, Clemente, Mazeroski, Stargell, Hebner, Ellis, Sanguillen, Bonilla and Van Slyke - a litany of swagging swashbuckler saints. He's sat beneath the long-ago pennants in PNC Park - Three Rivers, the house that Roberto built, was rubble by the time he was born and Forbes Field a dream so distant it might as well have been myth.
He has learned rote and catechism - earning their moniker by "pirating" a player from perpetual cross-state rival Philly; Honus' distaste for chewing tobacco; Maz's game seven walk-off homer; Clemente's quiet humanitarianism and Steve Blass' deep and abiding love and grief for him; the eagle-eyed fierceness of bench bosses Murtaugh, Tanner and Leyland; "Fam-a-lee!" reverberating through Three Rivers and spilling out over the rivers and city - all so long ago that only his daddy remembers. They are legends from an older, better time.
But, this year ...
This year, we have the "Z" and A.J's impassioned "sit down." Batters are caught between the Fort and the Hammer. We have McCutchen's lightning bat and strong throwing arm. We have 19-inning wars. We've got J-Mac and Wandy, Walker and Jones.
We have hope. Hope that not only could this not-so-motley crew steer the ship to anchor safe and sound after this fearful trip, but that something more might yet wait on the crowded shore.
You know, this year ... it could be the year. And if this is the year, how much longer until this team steps out from the shadows of Pie and Pops, of Roberto and Ritchie, of (yes) Barry and Bobby and start forging new legends in the Steel City?
Stay the course; don't lose hope. This is the year.
(Wallace-Minger, The Weirton Daily Times community editor, is a Weirton resident and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)