Monday, July 9, 2012

Go Bucs! Jumping on bandwagon over jump on bandwagon phrase

The Pirates enter the All-Star break in first place and even the skeptics are starting to crowd their way onto the bandwagon.

Me? I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever seen a band on a wagon so compelling it made me actually want to hop on board.

I don’t think so.

There were about three or four bands on wagons at last week’s Fourth of July parade. I enjoyed seeing them for the 30 or so seconds it took them to roll past my station outside the bar, but none of them had me thinking:

“Wow, that’s some band on that wagon! How tuneful! I think I’m going to jump on that bandwagon and tag along clear down to that other divey bar I never go to before my drink’s empty.”

I remember seeing concert footage of the Rolling Stones riding a flatbed truck through Manhattan to promote the 1974 release of their classic “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

I don’t remember anybody jumping on that band’s wagon, but it was just a few years removed from Altamont and memories of lethal stage-crashing repercussions may have been deterrent.

It would be cool to hear a really good band rolling down the street on a wagon. I’m surprised the catchy band hasn’t tried it.

The phrase “jump on the bandwagon” dates back to 1848 when a fascinating circus clown named “Yankee” Dan Rice barnstormed the country in support of eventual 12th president Zachary Taylor. Rice was the Will Rogers of his day, was friends with both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, and was feted by Mark Twain in “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

He’d invite Taylor “jump on the bandwagon” to bask in his associated popularity. The phrase became derogatory when people saw herds of mindless politicians trying to do the same.

The fact that Rice in 1868 ran for president makes me wish we lived in an era when citizen clowns turned to politics instead of one where politics turns citizens into clowns.

No one can accuse me of jumping on the Pirate bandwagon. I’ve been on board for as long as I can remember.

I used to attend more than 30 games a year and twice earned my wife’s enmity by putting my Bucs over our baby.

The first time happened at the very instant I was learned I was becoming a father.

I was on the phone with my friend Wally -- and everyone should have a friend named Wally if not the actual Wally. Everyone loves Wally.

It was 2000 and the Pirates were moving into snazzy new PNC Park. It was up to me to decide whether we should get the 30-game plan with seats at $40 per game or the cheaper seats that were like $20.

I’m uncertain of the prices, but they are approximate.

You could say they are ballpark!

Just then my frantic wife came running down the stairs clutching a home pregnancy test.

I told Wally to hold on for a second and put my hand over the phone.

“It’s positive,” she said. “I’m pregnant. We’re having a baby in September.”

I did not react or say anything and she immediately left the room, I guess, to guzzle vodka.

I remember clearly what happened next.

I put the phone to my ear and told Wally, “Let’s go with the expensive seats. Go Bucs!”

The decision to spend at a time when savings were in order is open to criticism, but I snagged a foul ball in those seats later that year so I feel vindicated. I close my eyes and still hear the cheers.

That home pregnancy test was correct because about eight months later our first daughter was born on September 25. I went to my first Pirate game as a new father two days later.

I remember my wife, new baby at her breast, glaring ferociously as I left for the game.

The criticism was echoed the next day when my brother expressed his contempt. How could I, he wanted to know, go to a baseball game with a two-day old baby at home?

It was Three Rivers Snow Globe Night, I said, as if that explained everything.

The Pirates have the fourth best record in baseball and are playing like champions. They have pitching, hitting, defense and an appealing chemistry that is capturing the imagination of the city.

The daughter who was the source of so much pre-natal controversy asked me last week if the Pirates could win the World Series.

Yes! I exalted. After 19 years of losing baseball, it hadn’t occurred to me to even consider the likelihood. But they could. It’s amazing.

The Pirates are making this summer a joy ride.

Climb on board. The wagon’s rocking and this is one band that really swings.

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