The Greatness of a Baseball Town

Sports is a funny thing sometimes. You have fans that are diehards for their team – never missing a game, closely following the stats, and regular devotees of all that is Sportscenter. Then you have the front runners – those people that love the Yankees of recent times, the Cowboys/49ers of the 90s, those Lance Armstrong braclet wearing guys (I know, I know … it’s a good cause). You also have the event driven fans. By that, I mean those people that tune in for just the big game, just the championship series. My wife is one of these people.

But then there are the baseball lovers – those that have been indoctrinated into the baseball religion by family and friends.Those are the ones that live and breathe baseball loyalty to their team and city. Their involvement level may rise and fall, but they love the team and follow it to some extent even if they can’t watch everygame. They feel the pain of a loss with a team that’s struggling and they revel in the euphoria that comes with victory.

This is what a St. Louis Cardinal fan is all about. Watch and see what happens. A team can win a series (see: the Marlins) and gain local fans that are genuinely excited, but this fades quickly. Interest dies away and the team has no soul, which is its fanbase and tradition. Wonderfully, this is not the case with the Cardinals. Should the Cards not win as much in ’07, there will still be rabid and intelligent fans. A few new blogs may die off, but others will continue to recount the history of ongoing Cardinal tradition. Maybe this will be one of those blogs. Either way, the Redbird nation will live on. New heroes will come every few years. The city will unite behind the team no matter what their fortune is.

You hear the media or commentators during the games discuss what a great baseball town the STL is. They talk about the ‘sea of red’, the loyalty to the players, the high baseball IQ the fans display, and all the rest. They are right, but it is so much more than that for those of us that live it. It’s more akin to rooting for and supporting a family member. Frankly it makes the baseball town fan wonder a bit about whether this is a good thing – comparing a sports team to a family member. In reality, there is no comparison since baseball is ‘just a game’. It is something important though. It is a good and positive influence. It has innocence and elegance going for it at the same time. Innocence because all boys have played baseball in the backyard, all kids looked with bulging eyes at the massive stadium, and the game is fun. The elegance is the beauty of the game whether watched or played. Golf is not like this. Tennis is not like this. Other sports are boring to watch and sometimes to play. Baseball is the ultimate skills game. You try to hit a ball coming at you when the radar gun is flashing 80+. You try to read the hit off the bat in the outfield and take the correct route to the ball. You try to decide whether to pinchbat for your pitcher whose gone 7 innings while you have a weak bullpen ready to back him up in a close game. Baseball is one of those rare games that is so easy on the surface. Any 4 year old can pick up a bat, throw a ball up in the air, and try to hit it – there is the basics of baseball. It can be as difficult as it gets though. A Cardinal fan knows this. That is what sets them apart.

And the Cardinal fans have waited. The three people blogging here were children the last time the Cards won a World Series. We were like Adam Wainwright though. This guy is in his first professional season as a major leaguer and he wins it all. He doesn’t know what he’s experiencing right now. Neither did we in 1982. But we’ve been through those 20+ years without a series win. We’ve been through the Ray Lankford years, heh. When he’s the best your team has to offer, you might as well be the Cubs or Dusty Baker trying to find a job. It sucks. Still, you love your team no matter what.

This year, they’ve given us a memory that we can hold onto for a long time. It was improbable and universally unexpected. I mean, we definately had some holes in our team but they made it happen anyway. It puts new perspective on the offseason and perhaps insight into the heads of general managers. They look at the Cardinals and say stuff like, “Why did we pay that much for this guy?” Wainwright shut everyone down and he makes less than a mill. You don’t have to be the Yankees to win it all. It helps you compete every year and probably be in contention every year, but you can do that with much less. Witness the Cards, Oakland, and Houston (not anymore probably) who were in contention within the last 5 years or so.

Enough rambling. I couldn’t be more happy to be associated and counted among the STL faithful. It’s a wonderful franchise and team. I look forward to the offseason and next season. I have all the faith in the world in Walt Jocketty (always have) and can continue to keep an eye on Tony LaRussa (it’s a love-hate relationship =-)

Enjoy the blog people!

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