I am not a fan of baseball, said sheepishly, half expecting a well placed ninja to dart me or a family member to produce the Excommunication order. I mean, I am the black sheep, I suppose it would only be fitting.
Like many American children, baseball was the first sport I played, and I loved it, loved those moments playing catch with my dad. He’d drive a hopper at me to test my manhood, and then toss one up in the clouds. I’d track it through tree leaves and sun glare, half of my heart wanting to catch the ball for the thrill of the moment, the other half wanting to catch it to make my dad proud. Then I found football. I was built for football. As a big kid, there are only two times when you are not picked last in gym class, red-rover and football. Having outgrown red-rover, football was all I had left. I don’t really have space in my heart for multiple traditional sports, it being so filled with music and poetry and dance and art. But, I have sectioned off a corner for my favorite sports: Traditional Sport (something you can play on a high-school team) goes to football, Alternative Sport (something you wish you could play on a high-school team) goes to skateboarding, and That’s So Fuckin’ Cool Sport (something you have never played but thoroughly enjoy watching) goes to Roller Derby.
This mindset makes living in St. Louis somewhat interesting. It is a city that is fueled by Cardinal Nation. Even on the on-line dating sites, Cardinal love is alive and well. If I had to estimate, 9 out of every 10 profiles I view makes a reference to being a Cardinals fan and/or (usually and) has one, if not many, pictures of them decked out in full Cardinal regalia at Busch stadium. Even the hipster girls with their Facebook poses and big rimmed glasses will have a picture of them in a Cardinals hat with the field in the background.
Fortunately, I was raised a Cardinals fan, my Dad lived in Arkansas for the majority of my adolescence.—For those unaware, most Arkansans are Cardinals fans. The Arkansas Travelers, their AA team, was affiliated with the Cardinals from 1966 to 2000. That and the shared border made the pairing pretty easy.—I spent youthful summers drinking homemade milkshakes with my grandpa. He in his rocking recliner; me, belly flat on the floor, our eyes fixed on images from 475 miles away that had landed on the tube in real time, grandma hummed hymns in the kitchen, not bothered by sport. I was most definitely the only kid living in the west suburbs of Chicago who was not stuck in a continual Cubs vs. Sox debate because for me, it was the Cardinals. One of my first baseball mitts was a Bruce Sutter signature, black with his signature in gold. My dad taught me to read the newspaper so I could check the Cardinals stats. It bonded us. Dad and I still share that connection. I took him to his first Cards game, and even though I am not a fan of baseball, I follow the Cards just close enough to be able to exchange conversation with my dad about the team. I value those youthful moments, those connection points.
So yesterday, when cutting through downtown to get from a music event to a roller derby bout, slowed by multiple stoplights and the sea of red making their way to the stadium, I had nothing but pride in my heart. While I do not love the game and continually turn down tickets, I love people, and I love living in a city that is so connected to its team.