PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Pirates have arrived.
The proof came in the volume and intensity of panic that followed Friday's come-from-ahead loss to the lowly San Diego Padres. You know the story by now: The Pirates turned a 7-1 lead at home into a 9-8 loss.
Based on the outrage that followed, you'd have thought Ben Roethlisberger had held onto the ball too long again.
Make no mistake, it was a bad loss, deflating and troublesome because it continued the storyline of James McDonald's bad second half and added to the suspicion that the bullpen, so efficient for so long, is showing signs of fraying.
As bad as it was, it was also one game in a 162-game season. Unlike a Steelers loss, there wasn't a full week to stew about it. There is plenty of opportunity for redemption during the current streak of games in 20 straight days.
Since beating up the lousy Astros in Houston, the Pirates are pretty much a .500 team. The wheels haven't come off, but the tires are leaking. The challenge for management is to navigate this grind by trying to keep players fresh, which may mean frequently dipping into the minor leagues for pitching reinforcements.
It's been a long time since the Pirates played meaningful games this late, so it's easy to forget what this process is like.
Friday's loss may turn out to be the beginning of the end. More likely, though, it's a bad bump in a very long road.
SUBHEAD: Power failure
The people who run the Pittsburgh Power (that's the Arena Football team) recently suggested that the league's labor problems contributed to poor attendance this season.
They reasoned that Pittsburgh is a staunch union town that didn't like the strong-arm tactics employed by management when the players rebelled.
That could be. Or it could be that people have wised up to the fact that Arena Football just isn't very good.
It looks like one of those games you and your friends made up to play in the basement on rainy days.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.