I joined Cub nation in the mid-1980s. I had just moved to Central Illinois and I found myself captivated by a certain slugger with the largest arms I'd ever seen outside of a wrestling ring.
Fans bowed to him as he strode to the plate. I bowed with them.
That was a simpler time. The Cubs -- save 1989 -- were too harmless to be anybody's enemy. The Cards and Mets and Bonds Pirates traded the division back and forth around us. The beer was cold and the women were hot. There was little talk radio and no Internet and the hate wasn't flowing.
Sure, we had 1998, but that was harmless too. Sosa and McGwire hugged and clapped and practically gave each other steroid injections. It was just so...pretty.
Back to mediocrity we went, while the Cardinals and Astros dominated the division. But now we hear the evil things Cardinals really say, on their message boards and talk radio.
Then 2003 -- and the world changed.
Dusty Baker has a lot of faults, but he got one thing right. He told us winning was better than having a good time. Winning WAS the good time. He couldn't live up to it, but he at least got the fans pointed in the right direction.
Cardinal fans were already there. Yes, sometimes they did good things, like cheering Edmonds.
But you see in this article just how much contempt those people are greeted with. Edmonds will not be cheered today, nor should he be, anymore than we should have cheered Sosa if he ended up in red.
This is a rivalry. There is bad blood. There is hatred. And yes, there can be mutual respect and moments of sportsmanship.
But we are a lot closer to Red Sox-Yankees than any of us want to admit