I didn't originally hate the Cardinals. In 1985, I was a young boy who thought it was really cool that two teams from his home state of Missouri were on the national stage of the World Series. I thought that shortstop that made dazzling plays and did backflips when he ran on the field was pretty neat. I liked the pretty red bird on their uniforms. St. Louis felt like a sister city to me. Maybe a big brother to Kansas City.
Then came Game Six. And the whining that followed. Let's be clear about two things. First, Cardinals fans have some justification for griping. It was a bad call. Bad calls happen - we've seen a lot of them in this post-season. Second, the call did not cost them the series. It was the first out of the ninth inning. All they had to do was retire Steve Balboni, Jim Sundburg, and Dane Iorg. Not exactly Murderer's Row. And they had Game Seven. It was the Cardinals that choked, not Don Denkinger. And it was Whitey Herzog's incessant whining about the call that really set the tone. Joaquin Andujar trashed a Royals Stadium toilet and the Cardinals imploded.
Two years later, the Cardinals were back in the World Series, locked in a terrific Fall Classic. It was the first Series in which the home team won every single game, and the Twins were crowned as champions. More whining. The Cardinals would have won had they had Jack Clark and Terry Pendleton healthy. The Cardinals were still the superior team to the lowly 85-win Twins. And of course, the Metrodome heating and cooling system was rigged to help the Twins!
The whining just continued decade after decade after that, fueled mostly by their new skipper Tony LaRussa. He complained about day games, he complained about night games, he complained about scoreboards, he complained about bullpen mounds, he complained about fireworks, he complained about inside pitches, he complained about the President not calling him, he complained about Nyjer Morgan's tweets, and he even sued Twitter. In Tony LaRussa's mind, everyone is out to get the Cardinals.
Look, not all Cardinals fans are bad. My college roommate and one of my best friends is a Cardinals fan (although seriously Mike, you cannot compare Willie McGee to George Brett). I dated a Cardinals fan in college (I could go the rest of my life without ever seeing another pink Cardinals hat). Lord knows my Facebook feed is littered with friends who are apparently Cardinals fans (although many seem to be bandwagon KC natives - "LET'S GO ALAN [sic] CRAIG! GO CARDS!")
The Cardinals were built with a steady pipeline of homegrown talent that just find ways to win. The payroll is larger than ours - just over $100 million - but not excessively so. Guys like Jon Jay, David Freese, Yadier Molina are downright likeable. I'd be lying if I said we weren't jealous.
But its the air of superiority. Oh the superiority! Eleven titles, we get it, that's fine. You deserve a ton of credit for that. But the back-slapping for being the Best Fans in Baseball (noted first by the St. Louis-based Sporting News publication) is beyond ridiculous. Endure twenty-five seasons of terrible baseball like we have in Kansas City and then we'll talk. The Cardinals have not endured back-to-back losing seasons since 1994-1995 when - surprise, surprise - attendance fell to the middle of the pack in the league. And every year we have to endure Bernie Miklasz or some other hack Post-Dispatch columnist telling us the Royals are SOOOOO below the Cardinals that there is no rivalry....only to have Cardinals fans gloat after every series win.
We get it. You went to the cool high school in St. Louis. You call pop "soda." You think toasted ravioli is somehow a gift to the culinary world. Nelly mentioned your city in a song once. Awesome. Just know that everything in sports is cyclical. The Cardinals will fall one day, and the Royals will once again rise. And we'll see who the best fans are then.
The Best Four Questions in Baseball
1. What will be the biggest trade in baseball this winter?
2. What is an underrated TV show more people should be watching?
3. Was the expanded wild card a success for baseball?
4. As a kid, what were you most scared of?