Pre-requisite: If at any time you find yourself disagreeing with a portion of this post, stop and ask yourself – “What would Bob Gibson do?”
Last night, we saw the effect of “Baseball’s Best Fans” on our home town Cardinals. It was disgusting. Really…I thought I was going to hurl. Busch Stadium sounded more like Wrigley Field than the home of the Cardinals. Every time a Cubs player got a hit or made a play, cheers erupted from the stands. When Jim Edmonds came to the plate, our home town fans greeted him with a nice, cozy standing ovation. Why don’t you offer him a pillow for his feet and a cup of warm milk while you’re at it?
This season, the Cardinals are 25 – 20 at home. We’re 24 – 19 on the road for cryin’ out loud! That essentially means the St. Louis Cardinals have as much of a chance to win away from Busch Stadium as they do in it. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Really.
For years, we’ve listened to baseball analysts tell us we’re “Baseball’s Best Fans,” and we’ve taken pride in the fact that so many MLB players name St. Louis as one of their favorite places to play – as a visiting team. In the past, that hasn’t affected us much. For the last several years, we’ve had a talented, veteran-heavy, dominant team in the NL Central. Cheer, boo, or sit on your hands – the Cardinals were going to find a way to pull it out more often than not. In other words, we could afford to be baseball’s best fans…respectful and suitably awed by outstanding plays regardless of which team was making them. Somehow, the core group of MV3 would find a way.
But this year is different. This year, MV3 is no more. Jim Edmonds is a Cub. Scott Rolen is a Blue Jay. Chris Carpenter may not pitch at all this season, and if he does, it will most likely be late in the year and out of the bullpen. Adam Wainwright has gone down, Pujols is playing one throw away from season-ending surgery, and our starting rotation resembles a jigsaw puzzle pieced together with lost pieces from other puzzles. Hell…even Izzy voluntarily removed himself from the closer role.
Of all the players on the 25-man active roster, 4 are rookies, 10 are playing their first full major league season as a St. Louis Cardinal, and 3 relievers have been forced into the starting rotation. This is not a dominant team. They are a tough, scrappy, determined team – but dominant they are not. It’s time their fans were the same.
In the past, the moniker of “Baseball’s Best Fans” meant respectful, intelligent, loyal, and appreciative. We respected the game of baseball. We knew what was coming when we had a guy on third, a man on first, 1 out, and a contact hitter at the plate late in a one-run game. If the Cardinals were in last place or first place, we showed up – maybe not a sell out, but we showed up. And we appreciated great baseball when it was played in front of us…regardless of who was playing it. If the visiting team made a diving play to rob our beloved Cardinals of a hit, we ooh’ed and awe’ed our appreciation. If a Cardinal player was struggling, we encouraged him with every at-bat or appearance (unless his last name is Duncan or Isringhausen – in which case, it has apparently become common practice to act like an ass…).
That was the past…this is now, and this team needs better fans.
We have fallen into the prideful trap of trying to be “Baseball’s Best Fans.” Screw that. I want Baseball’s Best Team, and I’m willing to be whatever type of fan I need to be to help our team achieve that. And if that means doing everything I can (within reason and legality…) to make a visiting team uncomfortable in Busch Stadium, so be it, damn it!
If the Cubs have the “friendly confines of Wrigley Field,” then St. Louis should have the “Hostile Territory of Busch Stadium.” When a Cubs player makes an outstanding catch to rob a Cardinal of a hit and possibly game-winning RBI, don’t cheer…BOO! Show them it pisses us off that they took a potential win away from our team. When a Cubs player runs for the stands to make a reach-in catch on an Albert Pujols fly ball, don’t move and give him room! Don’t playfully help him up and pat his back in friendly companionship because you’re so damn awe-stricken by his major league status that you just can’t help yourself! Stand your ground! If the player looks to be falling into the stands on plastic chairs and concrete walkways, don’t catch him! Part ways and let the visiting bastard fall! That’s the price he pays for entering the Hostile Territory of Busch Stadium. You don’t have to be a jerk, but don’t be their best friend either.
For too long, visiting teams have been much too comfortable at Busch Stadium as they saunter in and trounce our Cardinals. They waive their hats at the fans and smile, and we eat it up. Enough is enough.
This Cardinals team has the dignity to break the mold. The analysts tried to cast them in the role of last-place finishers, of non-contenders. And this team said to hell with that. They fight and claw and scrap their way to wins and hard-fought battles on the diamond. They denied the personality of losers given to them by the media, and they forged a new one defined by toughness, grit, and perseverence. It’s time we did the same.
We have been described as “Baseball’s Best Fans.” It’s time we found the balls to act like it…on our terms. It’s time we woke up and stopped drinking the pacifist Kool-Aid of MLB’s Best Fans and started acting like the Cardinals’ Best Fans, instead. Let’s turn Busch Stadium into the Hostile Territory of the St. Louis Cardinals. Let’s find the guts to match our team’s ferocity and scrappy attitude.
If a visiting team wants to find comfort and appreciation in St. Louis, they can lock themselves in their rooms at the Marriott and order room service…but if they’re going to show up in the Hostile Territory of Busch Stadium, they’ll only find ravenous fans and a cold welcome.
If you’re going to the game today, find the courage to break the mold and show the small bears exactly what it means to play in the Hostile Territory of Busch Stadium…and ask yourself, could you look Bob Gibson in the eyes and proudly proclaim yourself a Cardinals fan? Huh? Could you?