And now comes the battle of the gloom-meisters, single combat between opposing forces whose mastery of creeping pessimism and the Bad Times Are Comin' Blues is the real titanic struggle as baseball heads for October.
By which I mean: It's me the Pirates fan vs. everybody else the Cubs fan.
Me, the Pirates fan, beaten down by 20 years of numbing futility, knows what's coming next week when the Cubs invade PNC Park for the win-or-go-home NL wild-card game. The Cubs are going to throw Jake Arrieta out there, who hasn't given up an earned run since Christmas. The last time he faced the Pirates, he not only put their bats in stasis, he hit a home run just to grind salt in the wound.
"It's gonna be just like last year, when the Giants sent out Madison Bumgarner and he shut out the Buccos in PNC," I moan. "Deja screwed all over again."
Cubs Fan immediately gets a pained look on his/her face.
"I don't know," he/she says. "It's the Cubs. Bad stuff always happens to 'em in the playoffs. I wouldn't be writing the postseason off just yet."
"Are you kidding? Have you seen what Arrieta's done to the National League in the second half?" I counter. "You couldn't pick up his ERA with tweezers. The Pirates can't hit him. Nobody can hit him."
More sighing and hem-hawing from Cubs Fan.
"Yeaaah, but ... that just means he's due for a bad outing," he/she says. "I mean, how long can a guy pitch that well before having a bad game? Everybody has a bad game once in awhile. It would be just so, well, Cubs-y for Arrieta to lay an egg in this one."
Derisive snorting from me.
"Yeah, right," I say. "And Roberto Clemente's gonna descend from heaven in a golden chariot, leading Sam Siani's goat on a leash. Not happening. Not. Happening."
We stare at each other.
"Yeah, well ..." Cubs Fan says.
"Yeah, well ..." I say.
And somewhere behind the pearly gates, Clemente and Ernie Banks look at each other. They roll their eyes.