The Pirates’ gun gesture is painful, not joyful

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I am a Pirates fan of long standing. I watched many games in the Forbes Field bleachers. As a teen, I had the privilege of meeting Dick Groat when he played basketball one winter for the Manor American Legion team. I cut college chemistry lab to watch Game Seven of the 1960 World Series. I was watching the Pirates-Dodgers game at Chavez Ravine the night the Watts riots broke out. I’ve spent many wonderful hours at Forbes Field, Three Rivers and PNC Park. Wherever the times have taken me around the country, the Pirates have always been my team. I’ve shared the joy by proxy of each success of the team on the field. So it is with markedly mixed feelings that I write this letter.

Through the last few years I’ve enjoyed seeing the players flashing the “Z” after big offensive plays. It led to a sharing of the accomplishment with the fans who adopted the sign on T-shirts and hats. I realize that the Z has outlived its flash and that a replacement was due. But I am revolted and, as a fan, ashamed of the new gun and holster symbol.

Now, every time a Pirates player excels on the field and flashes the gun sign, instead of sharing the joy of the moment as a fan, all I am reminded of are the hundreds of victims of gun attacks that have occurred across our country in recent years. From Columbine, over and over again, up to and including two shootings at Fort Hood, the use of guns has cast an obscene pall over all of us. The celebration of this, unintended as it may be by the Pirates, can only serve to lessen the joy that fans may otherwise feel at their on-field accomplishments.

I look forward to someday being able to feel the happiness of their accomplishments unsullied by the memories of the slaughter of our fellow citizens. I urge the players to think again about the effect their gun-slinging gesture has on their fans, and by extension on all those families living with the horrible pain of having lost family members and children to gun violence.

Elkins, W.Va.

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