5th Thursday [1]: On Being a Sports Fan from St. Louis

A Commentary on the Cardinals, Blues, Rams, and More

It’s been a sad week for St. Louis sports fans. Our beloved Cardinals saw a season-ending injury (again) to ace pitcher Adam Wainwright. The Blues had an abrupt end (again) to an incredible season. We are planning a new football stadium (again) for a team that doesn’t exist, as it continues to look as though the Rams will be moving back home to California for the 2016 season. baseball_2Honestly, it’s hard to get too upset about Waino and the Cardinals. Because all they seem to do is win with whatever they’ve got. The last time Adam was out for the entire season? 2011, when the Birds dispatched the Texas Rangers to win the World Series. Still, it is more than a little nerve-wracking to have to do it again. Their number two superstar, catcher Yadier Molina, continues to be awesome, but he’s not a young guy anymore, and he has had his own history of untimely injuries. Plus, his position is one that is not known for supporting longevity. But a collection of other talented guys, among them Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter, are something to feel good about on offense and defense. The unknown element now is the pitching staff. Lance Lynn is a consistent and very good hurler, but if he is your number one guy, that doesn’t sound very promising. The staff now lacks a guy that fans who buy a ticket for a game he starts can feel pretty certain about seeing a win. But ironically, the years the Cardinals have had two such pitchers recently, Wainwright and the now retired Chris Carpenter, they have failed to make it to the Fall Classic. It’s as if their chances improve the fewer dominating pitchers they have on the active roster. The Cardinals’ most impressive season, for me, was 2013. While they lost the World Series to the Red Sox that year, in my mind they had no business even getting that far. They did it with a lineup filled top-to-bottom with newcomers, injury stand-ins, and Matt Holliday, who the year before caught a moth in his ear but couldn’t catch a fly in his glove. What they did have, however, was Wainwright for the whole season. Even so, I could not fathom how they made it that far. It was their first season without Albert Pujols. They were supposed to be finished before spring training even started. But it turned out they finished within two victories of a championship, better even than their 2004 match-up with Boston, which they entered with a much more solid team. So it will again be a summer of watching other guys step up, sweating out some pitching jams that otherwise would not have existed, and seeing other teams slowly fall out of contention as the season progresses. It is impossible to count any team out in April or May, now that there are two wild card teams in the playoffs. You don’t even have to be the second-best of the second-best to get in. And as we see more often than not, once you’re in, anything can happen. It could be that the most entertaining aspect of this season will be seeing if the Cardinals or anyone else can hold off the uprising Chicago Cubs! ice_hockeyWhich is the perfect transition to the status of St. Louis hockey. If there is any such thing in karma in sports, then all eastern Missouri fans need to stop making fun of the Chicago Cubs. Until this season, I had, like many Blues fans, considered the Blue Notes to be the Chicago Cubs of hockey. The Cubs have been without a world championship title for 106 years, by far the longest “title drought” of any team in any professional sport.  But guess what happened 107 years ago: They won it all. I considered that this month, and remembered that their last championship still counts for something. The Blues have NEVER won it all (their first season was 1967). So really, they are just the BLUES of hockey. Who would have thought that calling them the Cubs would be too much of an honor for them? I must confess that I haven’t watched much of the Blues regular-season games on television the past several years, even though I do get many of them in Central Missouri. What is the point? I have come to look at the NHL’s regular season as MLB’s spring training games–mere warmup for the real matches. While the wild cards have expanded for baseball, they have always been numerous in hockey. The fourth-best team gets in! Too many times I have diligently followed the Blues while they have outstanding seasons, twice winning the President’s Trophy for best regular-season record, only to see them fade out in the FIRST ROUND of the playoffs! Team Captain and winger David Backes said he’s tired of doing the terrible interviews after the Blues lose in April. No kidding? I’m tired of hearing them. How can a team with a roster history that includes Red Berenson, Barclay Plager, Mike Liut, Grant Fuhr, Brian Sutter, Brett Hull and Wayne Gretzky have so much of nothing to show for it? football_2Speaking of nothing, how about those St. Louis Rams? Their previous owner, the late Georgia Frontiere, moved the team from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995, and four years later they were the “Greatest Show on Turf” and winning the gateway city’s first Superbowl championship. Now, new owner Stan Kroenke–a Missouri native–seems determined to move the team out of town again, with several other cities in the running to get them, including Los Angeles and Sacramento. That would leave St. Louis with nothing as its football team for the second time in my life. But our Governor is trying to fast-track a brand new, Mississippi Riverside stadium, to be the future home of a team, even if the Rams leave. I guess if we built an empty stadium once; we can do it again!  Since winning the Superbowl, and then losing one two years later, the Rams have been very hard to watch. They have had just one winning record in the regular season since 2001. Their most promising recruit in the last few years was quarterback Sam Bradford, who in five seasons in St. Louis missed almost two seasons-worth of games (31) due to injuries. The Rams never finished with a winning record in that time.basketball That brings us to basketball. The Spirits of St. Louis won a playoff series in their inaugural season, but that was 40 years ago, and after just their second season, 1975, they disappeared along with the American Basketball Association of which they were a part. SInce then, the entire state has been without professional basketball. Do college sports pick up the slack? St. Louis’ only major college is the secular St. Louis University, which has fine seasons now and then in basketball, but has not had a football team since 1949, and to my knowledge no college hockey team exists south of the Mall of America. The University of Missouri, here in Columbia, has turned on its head in recent years. It used to be quite reliable to have a fantastic season in basketball, while it has usually stunk in football. Since joining the SEC a few years ago, however, the reverse is true. Football brings the mega-crowds and the dollars more than basketball, so that is where the Tigers have become strong. Not strong enough to win a conference championship, but strong enough to compete and be relevant. Meanwhile, basketball has become a joke at Mizzou Arena. For sports fans in St. Louis, Mizzou sports tend to be just something to watch when there’s nothing else on, I think, unless you are an alumnus. ¶ As a St. Louisan, while I am proud to be from “a baseball town” that has been identified as having “the best fans” in the game, the truth is that baseball is pretty much all we have had. So let the Cardinals go on winning. Let us have that much. But once the Cubs break their century-old slump, I expect the Blues to hoist a Stanley Cup. I would almost give the baby bears a World Championship just so St. Louis could celebrate in June for once. http://stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=stl http://blues.nhl.com/index.html http://www.stlouisrams.com/ http://www.remembertheaba.com/Spirits-of-St-Louis.html http://www.slubillikens.com/ http://www.mutigers.com/ http://www.mallofamerica.com/

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2 thoughts on “5th Thursday [1]: On Being a Sports Fan from St. Louis

    • Yeah, as I posted I was thinking about how it could be worse. Few cities enjoy multi-sport dominance, and then usually not for very long. I’m just jealous of Boston lately, I think. But the bottom line is that sports are entertainment for the spectators, and I am impressed with the talented people that try to make a living at them, win or lose.

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