To the baseball fans of the world, particularly Saint Louis Cardinal fans, who have yet to discover I’m a Chicago Cubs fan, I know you are likely to find it disgusting and feel the need to belittle, scoff at, or make fun of me. I accept that, this is what we do in sports. I think some people are into sports just to have an outlet to harass others without guilt. I do, though, have a gripe about the way I am most often harassed for my Cub fan affiliation.
I was motivated to write this last week, when a coworker greeted me with a “What about them Cardinals,” and I told her I was a Cubs fan, so she probably wouldn’t get the answer she’s looking for from me. Her answer, which I find is a go-to answer, especially with Cardinal fans was, “When was the last time the Cubs were in the playoffs? That’s all I’m saying.”
I get it. We lose a lot. We choke in important playoff series and make ill-advised, rash trades that destroy our hopes for years, while the Cardinals have a great farm system top-to-bottom, ready to replace every star who becomes an expensive free agent and manage to take every trash-heap, left-for-dead veteran and turn him into an all-star. Good for you. I got nothing to counter that.
But, I don’t think you get exactly what it implies to me when you pull out the “why-don’t-you-like-a-team-that-wins” argument. Is there anyone who seriously claims to be a sports fan who thinks fans should choose a team because it’s winning? You get shamed for that stuff. And honestly, Cardinal fans, if you count yourself a true fan, I bet you wouldn’t admit, “I like them because they win a lot.” It’s likely your grandfather listened to them on the radio, when that was the only baseball he could get, and he passed it down to your dad, who passed it down to you. Liking the Cardinals is part of your family heritage. Or, maybe you like them because the Cardinals are close and represent you, so they are winning for the people in your region.
Sure, you probably latched onto them some year when they made an important run that was exciting. Most people really fall in love with a team because of a spark. It’s hard for me to remember, but I think I fell in love with the Cubs during their ’84 playoff run when I was 6. As I got older, I realized there are so many things about this team that fit my sensibilities: I love history, and they have a 100 year old ballpark, I love quiet and the outdoors, and (for now) they have one of the most natural, peaceful places to play ball, I root for underdogs, and …well you know, I love Chicago, I love the color blue, I love Bill Murray.
What I’m saying is that I’m a fan, and when you’re a fan, something about the team appeals to you that transcends wins and loses. If you love a team, you know I’m right. So, those who have yet to rib me for being a Cubs fan, it’s fine to say “Cubs fans just want to drink beer and take of their shirts in the bleachers and whine,” or “day baseball is crap,” or “the troughs in the Wrigley bathrooms are terrible,” or “the way Starlin Castro’s hair puffs out under his helmet is annoying.” But, don’t say, “how can you like them, they never win?”
Because, if that’s the way you want to go, I want you to ask yourself this today: “If the Giants win tonight and eliminate the Cardinals, are you going to like them a little less? If they don’t make the playoffs next year, will you like them even less? If they go 10 years without making the playoffs, will you move on to the Yankees (they win a lot too)?” I know it’s hard to fathom right now as you stand on your mountaintop of 11 World titles and how many freaking playoff appearences in the last 20 years. But, if, hypothetically of course, the Cards hit a sustained drought, are you going to question why you like this team? If you’re a real fan, the answer is, “Hell no. Cardinals till I die,” which is the way it should be–you’re a real fan.
Yeah, me too.