October 13, 2015
Some people say that sports don’t mean anything in the long run. They’re merely a distraction from reality, a juvenile world of black and white. I don’t buy that claim.
My best friendship began with a Cardinals game in 7th grade. Connor and I still go to around 20 games a year together, but our friendship is so much deeper than the game we’ve rooted it in, primarily (and perhaps paradoxically) because of that very game. We trust each other more than just about anyone else in the world, although we may have never gotten to know each other well if not for the St. Louis Cardinals.
I’ve maintained a strong friendship with my favorite and best teacher from SLUH, Rich Moran, through a constant string of emails about the Cardinals. All year long, we bitch about the construction of the lineup and roster, potential free agent signings, trade deadline rumors, the hottest prospects, and, every once in a while, we cheer. But from time to time, one of us will email the other and call the subject, “non-baseball stuff.” At no other time do we waste our time writing a subject. We’ve used it for the death of my grandmother, the death of Rich’s mother, the birth of Rich’s granddaughters, various stories I’ve started (and never finished), and articles from the New Yorker or New York Times. Our friendship goes beyond baseball, but there’s a chance that without the Cardinals, one of my last interactions with Rich would have been at my high school graduation.
At Clark Elementary School, Bently, Brendan, and I were best friends. We called ourselves “The Three B’s.” Frequently we had “B’s Nights Out,” sleepovers with just the three of us. Always we watched the MV3 Cardinals together. Jimmy Edmonds was our guy (although Brendan also loved Edgar Renteria). We watched the first Cardinals dynasty of our lives as they dominated the NL Central from 2004-2006. In 2008, Brendan moved to Orlando, and it’s been since his visit back to St. Louis freshman year that the three of us last hung out together (we’ve all hung out in pairs; in fact, I got dinner with Brendan last weekend before his soccer game). But the communication that still holds us together every few months almost always has something to do with the Cardinals. “I miss when the Cardinals used to hit home runs,” Brendan texted me in July. Me too, bud. I also miss when we didn’t allow home runs, but now they’re allowing them to anyone who walks to the plate and my heart feels like Steve Bartman’s in 2003.
When I went abroad, I didn’t expect to feel as anxious and upset as I did at some points in my transition. But when those times hit hardest, I turned to the Cardinals. I watched the entirety of Games 6 and 7 of the 2011 World Series. I watched highlight reels of my favorite players. I bought an MLB.TV subscription so I could stay up until 4 or 5 am watching the Cardinals in April. Even when I spent Opening Night at a hostel in Bologna the night of Easter, I set an alarm for 2:05 am to watch the Cardinals beat the Cubs in the newly renovated Wrigley Field.
Sports shouldn’t consume a person’s life, but to discount their value is to discredit a powerful force. Some call sports an escape from reality, but they’re so much more than that. In their rawest form, they’re a part of so many identities. Acting in the same way as music, books, TV shows, or any other form of entertainment, sports are an integral part of our culture, not a trivial escape. I know I’m not the only person to have been so heavily impacted by the Cardinals or another hometown team.
That’s why this loss tonight hurts so badly. We turn to sports when we most need them, not because they’re an escape, but because they shape so many parts of our lives—well, at least if you’re a diehard, not a bandwagoner. I could find solace in the fact that the Cardinals have been bad a total of 4 years since I was born, and we’ve been the best team in the MLB over the past 15 years by a wide margin. But 107 years without a World Series for the Cubs doesn’t mean as much when they’re 12 months closer to their next World Series than the Cardinals. I’m thrilled for some of my friends who are great Cubs fans and finally get some excitement. But I’d rather give my best friend the girl of my dreams than deal with this loss for the next few weeks. 4 years in a row now, we’ve dropped 3 straight poorly played games to sputter out of the playoffs. It’s heartbreaking.
But I feel like Jim Halpert when Pam didn’t love him. Like Harry Potter when Voldemort returned.
I’ll never stop loving the Cardinals. Wainwright is my all-time favorite player, and that will never change. Heyward needs to be the face of the franchise for the next 10 years. The MV3 of Pujols, Edmonds, and Rolen was even better than the incredible offense the Cubs just rolled out against us. But damn it this hurts, and it’s not because sports don’t mean anything.
“Little Talks” – Of Monsters and Men https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghb6eDopW8I
“Never, ever, ever give up.” – Michael Scott