I will always be a St. Louis Cardinals fan, but I’m not as big a baseball fan as I used to be. Less time for television viewing. No cable television. No reliable free radio coverage until recently when I got a smart phone (we’ll see how next season goes).
And also, steroids.
I sometimes think the last 20 years should have a big, fat asterisk next to it. It’s hard for me to get swept away by a game when I think so many of the players are gaming the system. Thus, Albert Pujols with his bigness always made me nervous (though as far as I know, he’s not on the lists of “guys we’re pretty sure are juiced.”)
Plus I never liked Tony LaRussa’s hair. (And I never forgave him for the way George Will gave LaRussa credit for some of what Whitey Herzog did with the Cardinals.)
But I can’t not love the Cardinals, even when they’re stinking up the field the way they did Monday night against Boston. Once I start, I can’t stop watching this moment during which I am fairly certain Wainwright was jinxed.
But even if they hadn’t won last night (whoo hoo!), I’d still love them.
Basically, here’s why:
Watching the gods: these aren’t really normal people. We’re watching them do things we could not do.
Literary nature of the game: lots of people have written about this. It’s true. Bull Durham is my favorite movie, partly because of this.
Geographical identity: I don’t know when I’ll ever live in Southern Illinois again, but being a Cardinals fan is part of how I remind myself I’m from there.
Lust and objectification: Can I help it that I first REALLY noticed the Cardinals in 1982, when they won the Series, when I was 17, in the flush of my first waves of womanly hormone energy and girlfriends of mine pointed out things like “Tommy Herr has a great butt.” Objectification is bad, of course. But wow, are these guys fun to watch. Some more than others.
Family Ties: whatever else makes us different, the vast majority of my Southern Illinois family and I are Cardinals fans, and we can always share that. I love it that my Gran’daddy, who’s been gone for two years now, was a HUGE Yadier Molina fan. (I never told Gran’daddy my theories about Yadi waxing his eyebrows.)
Links to my past: I was such a huge fan in the late 80s. I remember sitting on the deck of one of many trailers I lived in while a grad student in Carbondale, listening to KMOX, drinking a Budweiser, sweating like crazy because birds had built a next in the a.c. and I didn’t want to bother them. I don’t want to ever forget that part of myself.
History and tradition: I never got to see Stan Musial or Lou Brock play, but I have a #6 cap and I would love, love, love to own a Brock-a-brella. St. Louis has been so dominant the last few years, it almost seems it’s cool now to hate them (NOTE: they were NOT dominant in the late 80s and early 90s when I spent the most time actively following them), but it’s an awesome club with a rich tradition and I’m so, so happy to see them relying on their farm clubs again.
I tend to cheer for the underdogs, nonetheless. I would love to see the Cubs dominate, head to the World Series and win, win, win. The last time the Brewers were threatening, I actually cheered for them against the Cards in the playoffs. I didn’t really mind when Boston won in 2004 (but I do feel like it’s our turn now, regardless of the arguments made by the Red Sox fan I’m married to).
But when it comes down to it, if the Cards are playing, I’m on their side. I can’t not love them.