The mere writing of the headline above will be de facto proof to the majority of Cub fandom that I am not one of them.
They are wrong.
I lay my bona fides out before a skeptical Cub Nation (naw, I hate that; let's leave this Nation biz to the Red Sox and their insufferable loyalists). I became hooked on the Cubs listening to Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau call the games on WGN radio back in 1967 when the Cubs were just coming out of their two decade-long slumber. I was delirious.
By 1969 when the Cubs tore up the league for two-thirds of the season, I may as well have died and gone to heaven. I remember every song played on the radio that June, July, and August, all of which — especially (and appropriately) Crystal Blue Persuasion — take me back to that Summer of Cub when I hear them now. I still get goosebumps at this late date listening to Vince Lloyd call the last out of Kenny Holtzman's no-hitter (I was there).
I've suffered and dreamed with the Cubs. I actually cheered for guys named Pete LaCock, Joe Strain, Tuffy Rhodes, and Amaury Telemaco. I came thisclose to touching Bob Dernier's leadoff home run in the 1984 playoffs. I watched the heartbreak in San Diego on a tiny black and white TV that Andy Frain ushers had set up in the bleachers box office on that gloomy Sunday afternoon five days later. I stood on Waveland Avenue and followed the Cubs' 1989 home playoff games on the centerfield scoreboard. I endured the nearly unendurable tenures of general managers Jim Frey, Larry Himes, and Ed Lynch. I felt the kick in my belly when Alex Gonzalez choked away that double play ball in October 2003. I couldn't eat for nearly a week afterward.
Living in Louisville in 2008, I sat in the dark in my car, moving it a few yards this way or that every few minutes in order to catch a clear signal of Pat and Ron calling Carlos Zambrano's no-hitter.
I kept my fingers crossed that the rumors that Theo Epstein was coming to town would be true in the fall of 2011.
So no one can say I'm not a true Cubs fan. That's why I can say, I dig the St. Louis Cardinals.
Heresy? Natch. Cubs fans tell each other it is a..., well, a cardinal sin for one of us to even tolerate the existence of the Redbirds. Websites are devoted to hating the Cards and their fans.
To that I say, Tough! I'm pulling for them to beat the Red Sox in the World Series. They are a fun team to watch. Call me the Martin Luther of the relgion that is Cub-ism. If I weren't afraid of getting pinched, I'd nail my 95 Theses to the front door of Wrigley Field.
Alright, maybe not 95. How about 9?
Here they are:
- St. Louis is a nice, friendly Midwestern town dotted with rich, ethnic neighborhoods, just like Chicago.
- Cardinals fans are as devoted to their team as Cubs fans are, even when that team is putrid (which is almost never, but still....)
- The Cardinals are pretty much ignored by the anchors of the Eastern Seaboard Sports Network who, as we all know, acknowledge the existence of only two, and occasionally three, major league teams.
- Stan Musial, the greatest player in Cardinals history, was a gentleman, a sportsman in the truest sense of the word, and a terrific role model. His nickname was simply, The Man. He and the Cubs' Ernie Banks were the game's exemplars of clean, hard-nosed, yet civilized and joyful play. What, you prefer A-Rod and Barry Bonds?
- The Cardinals' uniforms rank with the Blackhawks' as the best in American professional sports.
- The Cardinals organization regularly fields a top-flight team without resorting to flashy, splashy, hyper-expensive free agent signings. It develops talent like no other baseball franchise. It trades smartly. When it signs a free agent, its choices are astute and fill real needs on the team.
- When Albert Pujols, the second greatest player in Cardinals history, became a free agent, the organization cut ties with him, as they had come to the conclusion that his best days were in the past. That's the kind of reasoned, calculating move that helps a team stay at the top.
- When a Cardinals star is injured, somehow the team remains competitive. They went to the World Series the year their ace, Adam Wainwright, was on the shelf. (If only the Cubs could be so resilient; does Derrek Lee's wrist ring a bell?)
- Harry Caray was the voice of the Cards for 25 years. For that matter, so was Milo Hamilton, for a year (1954) as well as former Cubs Dizzy Dean and Joe Garagiola.
If you love baseball, why wouldn't you love the St. Louis Cardinals?
I do. Well, maybe love is too strong. I like them. I have a little tryst with them every time they reach the post-season. As long as my true love won't keep me satisfied, this Cubs fan occasionally has to get what he needs from a team that will.