Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

A look inside this rivalry

At the beginning of last season, I made a resolution that I would no longer pay to attend games at Wrigley Field.

I grew up in St. Louis, but I have lived on the north side of Chicago for nearly 10 years now, since I was 18. In that time, I have attended many a Cubs-Cards game. I have waited in line four hours prior to first pitch in order to get seats in the front row of the bleachers. I have watched raptly during many BPs, drank many beers, and argued with many girls wearing pink Cubs jerseys. I have yelled to So Taguchi that I love him.

Yadi tags out Daryle Ward at home plate on July 6, 2008. Woohoo. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images North America)

For most of those years, the rivalry was something in which I could revel–primarily because the Cubs could be relied on to be a good 17 games behind us by August. I remember a lot of good-natured jesting. In 2007 and 2008, things grew uglier. The Cubs won back-to-back division titles in these years, and as I watched the fair weather fans rise from their drunken masses, my good-natured jesting festered into a hateful disdain. I no longer felt that it was worth over $50 a ticket to drag myself to that dump of a stadium just to be antagonized by a belligerent fan who, let’s face it, probably knows half as much as I do about baseball. Thus, my resolution: In 2010, I would spend no money on Cubs tickets.

Funnily enough, shortly after my pronouncement, someone offered me free tickets to an upcoming Cubs-Cards game, so I ended up going anyway. But during that trip to Wrigley Field, I noticed a marked difference in the atmosphere. There was very little trash-talking, and overall, very little… care. The Cubs were terrible again, and Brandon Phillips was over in Cincinnati, running his mouth and waving his arms, frantically trying to get some undeserved attention. A few cowardly kicks in the head later by Johnny Cueto, and a new rivalry was born–one with real fire in it, one fueled by more than some watery beers in the bleachers.

I don’t mean to take away from the massive history of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry; I only mean to say that like anything long and storied, it has its lulls and swells, and this, now, is a lull if I have ever seen one. I never want to see the Cubs win, but I’ve never cared less about it than I do now. I am more concerned about the Reds and the Brewers–as I should be. And, to be honest, I’m seeing my apathy reflected in the faces of those clad in Cubbie blue. There are a lot of empty seats at Wrigley this year. My friends who are Cubs fans (yes, sadly, I have a few of those) are curiously quiet, or un-curiously vocal about their low expectations for the season. The most passionate that I’ve seen Cubs fans so far? Last night’s weak boos of Ryan Theriot.

Let’s talk for a second about Ryan Theriot. He’s said a lot of things. I personally think that his “comments” about Cardinals fans were completely overblown. I mean, if all of Cardinal Nation wants to band together get offended when someone says we don’t have the greatest sense of fashion… well, I think we should not do that, and maybe just band together and be in love with our baseball team. As for his comments re: “being on the right side of the rivalry” at the beginning of this season–well, the Cubs traded him to the Dodgers, and we signed him. He wanted to ingratiate himself to his new team. What’s so bad about that? That being said, I had to wonder how we would react if the tables were turned. We are famous for applauding–nay, standing and applauding–former players who return. We have applauded Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds–two iconic Cardinals from the last decade–even as they play(ed) for teams within our division. Are there circumstances under which we would boo them?

I’m headed to the game tonight, so keep an eye on Twitter for some live-game, super lively observations. But I, for one, am not expecting much more than just a plain old baseball game.

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