Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The baseball team ditched CGI ship fights for streetscapes and signature Pittsburgh imagery.
Sports teams' in-house videos tend to err (quite firmly) on the side of corny and over-dramatic. But this season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have rolled out a string of city-centric scoreboard videos that are actually kind of nice to watch.
The team introduces its starting line ups in the style of Saturday Night Live's opening credits, using fast-paced, nighttime city imagery to set the scene as players casually introduce themselves to the camera.
The video that displays before it might be even better. "Shadows of the City" is the official intro video, played each game night right before the team takes the field. The video intersperses game footage with a bevy of signature Pittsburgh imagery, including its neighborhoods, light rail, and the city's vast collection no-frills bars and restaurants.
Then there's the "Voice of the Fan" video, which debuted last year. In it, an actor walks around Pittsburgh, speaking to the pride the Pirates provide the city. It's a smart strategy as civic pride may be the biggest selling point for a team that hasn't had a winning season since 1992.
The new direction is a welcome departure from some of the team's previous concepts, including an intro video that, via computer graphics, depicted two ships (one representing the Pirates, another representing the opponent that day) battling each other at sea, and a 9th inning rally video that mixed team footage with a clip from Pirates of the Caribbean to pump up the crowd.
If you miss the team's new lack of cheesiness, don't panic. This season, when closer Jason Grilli takes the mound for a save, an announcer declares it to be "Grilled Cheese Time" and a video appears with clips of Grilli doing things like striking people out and holding a grilled cheese sandwich on a pan.
The Pirates are currently just one game back of first place in their division. Should they collapse again like last season, well-made civic pride videos may not be enough to soothe an anxious PNC Park crowd.