On Saturday, January 15, 2005, my husband Matt and I walked into a Subaru dealership in a Pittsburgh suburb, ready to buy and drive home a car that very day. (We knew we wanted the car soon, but our timetable was moved up when that very morning, our car had spontaneously caught on fire. But that’s another story.) We arrived in the late afternoon, went for a test drive, and quickly reached an agreement with the salesman. And then the salesman uttered words I never thought I’d hear from someone selling cars: “You’ll have to come back on Monday to do the paperwork.”

Why? We were ready to sign on the dotted line right then and there. But the dealership had other priorities besides selling cars that day. It was just a short while until the Steelers playoff game was set to start, and the dealership was closing early so everyone could go watch the game.

I’m going to quietly admit that I am not a football fan. I have no ill will toward the Steelers at all, it’s just that football is not something that I’ve ever felt drawn to. I’m one of probably not too many Penn State graduates who never attended a Penn State football game. I loved living in State College and loved being a Penn State student, but the football culture wasn’t part of the experience for me. Honestly, I’ve always felt sort of mystified by the phenomenon of becoming emotionally involved in whether a team wins or loses. It’s just a game. Why is it such a big deal?

This only intensified when I moved to Pittsburgh and found myself surrounded by people wearing Steelers or Penguins jerseys anywhere and everywhere at any time of year. I’ve seen Terrible Towels distributed as wedding favors and black and yellow used as wedding colors. People in Pittsburgh love their sports teams!

At least… they love the Penguins and the Steelers. When I moved to Pittsburgh in 1996, the Pirates were declining steadily after their last playoff appearance in 1992. There wasn’t too much to be interested in (except, I did think Jason Kendall was cute) until PNC Park debuted in 2001. What a beautiful ballpark! You really can’t find a better view of Pittsburgh’s skyline and bridges than from inside the park. During the first few years at PNC Park there was a place on the club level that sold these enormous sandwiches piled ridiculously high with roasted turkey. Back then we used to propose going to a game by saying, “hey – want to go see the big sandwiches this weekend?”

While I’ve never been able to muster much interest in hockey, football, basketball or soccer, I do like baseball. Which is a good thing since I’m married to a baseball-loving man, my 8-year-old is baseball-obsessed, and my youngest is now playing T-ball. While I root for their teams and am happy when they do well, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that emotionally invested in the outcome of a game.

And then came the 2013 Pirates. For the first time since 1992, the Pirates were playoff contenders, even spending some of the season in first place in the NL Central Division. And on Tuesday, October 1, before a standing room only crowd at PNC Park, the Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Reds to secure the wild card spot and advance to play St. Louis in the National League Division Series.

I don’t know what came over me. After that victory, I found myself doing all kinds of things I’d never have believed. I read articles on the Post-Gazette website to find out who’d be pitching in each NLDS game. I read about the daily inspirational emails that manager Clint Hurdle sends each day and become even more emotionally invested.

This was surreal. At my age (which we can just describe as under 40), I’m not that accustomed to completely new experiences and feelings. But after decades of sports apathy, for the first time ever, I started to get what I imagine everyone else has always felt when their teams are doing well. Excitement… pride… and also relief, that finally, baseball in Pittsburgh was fun and exciting.

Now I had to learn how to be a fan. First I needed to get Pirates shirts for my kids – other than a couple hats from Heather and Bill’s wedding, and a T-shirt my brother gave me, we had no Pirates apparel. I went to a few stores and was dismayed to find only Steelers, Panthers and Penguins apparel. I could only hang my head at what a novice fan I was, not even knowing where to buy T-shirts. But thankfully my devoted Pirates fan brother-in-law pointed me to the Strip District (why hadn’t I thought of it?!) and I picked upĀ  a few T-shirts.

Donning my Pirates shirt as I did some grocery shopping, I couldn’t help but wonder… what’s the protocol for this? If I’m wearing a Pirates shirt, and I see someone else in Pirates gear, am I supposed to greet them somehow? High five? Also, Game 4 of the NLDS was a Monday, which meant a day working at my marketing job. My co-workers often show their support for their teams before big games by wearing their jerseys or team colors, but the thought of doing so has never crossed my mind. But this time, there was no question. I went to work in my Pirates shirt. When my closest co-workers saw me, their jaws dropped.

As I write this now, it’s all over, as the Pirates lost to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS. Within minutes of the game ending, I received an email notification from StubHub to let me know that the upcoming event I’d purchased tickets for had been cancelled. The event? Game 4 of the NLCS. Oh well.

It’s been an adventure. Thank you Pirates for a great season, and good luck next year!