I have a friend; let’s call him Ogre. He’s a towering guy, not to mention massive-and-a-half – think of an over-the-hill offensive tackle who’s added Dad strength to the equation. Oh, he’s handsome enough, I suppose, and generally pretty friendly and agreeable. But here’s what makes him a monster: Ogre is a St. Louis Cardinals fan, and a Chicago Cubs-hating one at that.
Actually, I should clarify: Like so many who root for the Birds on the Bat, Ogre doesn’t hate the Cubs so much as he loathes – and looks down upon – Cubs fans. “They don’t know the game,” he says, “They don’t care if their team sucks. They don’t keep score like it’s a hundred years ago because they have both hands on ice-cold Old Styles and their heads up their ‘Wait ’til next year’ asses.”
This is a good time to mention that the Cubs are headed to the National League Championship Series after kicking in the Cardinals’ skulls three games to one in the Division Series, locking things down with a 6-4 victory on a blessed, glorious Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
Also: Screw you, Ogre.
We exchanged texts throughout the NLDS, Ogre and I, including one damn funny one in which he assailed the women at Wrigley Field as “frat boys in sheep’s clothing.” He softened some during Game 4, around about the time Cubs rookie-slash-superhero Kyle Schwarber launched an unfreakingbelievably long home run in the seventh inning for a two-run lead the team would hold until the end. Ensuing texts allowed for the possibilities that the Cubs actually were a decent team and that a run to the World Series, their first since 1945, or even a championship, their first since 1908, might almost be a tad fun.
I smelled bullshit – defense mechanism, anyone? – but whatever. And then Hector Rondon struck out Stephen Piscotty to touch off a celebration befitting the Cubs’ first playoff series-clinching victory in the 101-year history of Wrigley. And then came this:
“Fuck the Cubs. I changed my mind: Go, Dodgers.”
Am I talking too much about Ogre? Allow me to a little more. I love the guy. I’m also kind of the St. Louis version of him, plus a few years of age, minus a bit of the height and muscle and, sadly, even some of the handsomeness. He lives up there; I live down here. He’s from down this way; I’m from the North Side of Chicago, where I rode my bicycle to Wrigley, or chained the bike and took the bus or the train there, long before I was old enough to drive. Before Cubs games were a cultural phenomenon; before Harry Caray came to Wrigley; before the neighborhood name Wrigleyville even existed.
I lived on the North Side for 30 years. I’ve lived in St. Louis for 15. That makes me old, or at least old enough to appreciate the hell out of the fact the Cubs just won a playoff series for the second time in my lifetime. It also makes me something of a babe in the woods of the Ogres.
Look, Cardinals fans – and I’m referring to all of them – are giant pains in the ass. If they’ve been around as long as I have, they’ve experienced three World Series titles, seven National League pennants and 12 seasons when they made the playoffs and the Cubs didn’t. That’s all bad enough. But they’re hopped up on sanctimony, too. We take our baseball with two heaping spoonfuls of “the right way.” The “Cardinal Way” is the only way. By golly, we’re the best fans in baseball.
And here’s the thing I’ve learned from living here all this time. I won’t sugarcoat it: They’re right. Like Green Bay Packers fans – deal with it, Chicago – Cardinals fans are more knowledgeable and invested. They do care more about how the shortstop is hitting with less than two outs and runners in scoring position, not to mention wins and losses. And they can’t tolerate organizational failure, in large part because they wouldn’t recognize it if it approached them under the Arch and kissed them on the mouths.
But screw ’em. (You, too, Ogre.) Because they’re also afraid to hang out around their downtown ballpark. They’re weenies who rush to their cars and make a beeline for the suburbs as soon as the game is over. They’re lame.
And this is where Cubs fans have them beat. Sorry, St. Louis. The countless bars and restaurants near Wrigley? They’re packed to the gills before, during and after any big game. Is it wrong that college graduates by the thousands move to Chicago, settle in and partake in the joy of Cubdom? Are they lesser humans because they party like it’s 1908? If they cause a drunken disturbance in the bleachers, does it alter the fact that no one (other than me, apparently) moves to St. Louis?
Should I even bother to mention at this point that I love where I live? I do. My family has met the most wonderful people here in the Gateway City, but my October heart belongs to my hometown. Guess what? It’s fun to root for a team that doesn’t win all the time, and impossible not to take joy in the 2015 death of the Birds on the Bat.