Sometimes certain things happen that inevitably lead one to question the paradigm of the situations they find themselves in. I had my inevitable moment very recently, and it happened, no less, during a Saint Louis Cardinals broadcast.
As a life long resident of the STL, it is no secret that the Cardinals have a near impenetrable choke hold on Saint Louis sports media, and as a result, we tend to receive a very slanted, almost Orwellian take on everything as it pertains to the Birds on the Bat. Every routine play by an over rated, underachieving player is made to appear as if they are the second coming of some of baseball’s elite players. Mistakes that would otherwise be inexcusable on any other team are overlooked, downplayed, or in some circumstances even joked about. Ownership has shown the same aptitude as a trained seal at the Zoo, and often seem to turn a blind eye toward complete fielding eye sores, offensive liabilities, and poor pitching performance, all the while screaming at the top of their lungs at the mob of “Baseball’s Best Fans” clamoring to make this yet another 3 Million plus ticket season.
The reason this resonated so deeply with me was I was left thinking about the ending of last Blues season. Ultimately, many of the same woes befell our beloved boys in blue, yet many in the media seemed to treat this as a non issue. The Blues found themselves in a very familiar situation amongst the Saint Louis Landscape: They were the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving, situated between the ever entitled sister with the fake rack and the platinum hair extensions, oozing a persona of false confidence and security adorned in Red Feathers, and the upstart tycoon son who had just recently struck gold with his new partner Sam and his buddy Steven and were still riding the wave (read: the Rams).
I may sound like the little brother right now, but it is amazing how much the team has done in the midst of everything it has had to endure since 2005. Yet, despite everything the team has endured, sacrificed, and ultimately lost, the team still chugs along, trapped in a wake left by the power houses that are the Cardinals and the massive shadows cast by the NFL. Langenbrunner and Arnott, names that had they been Al Harris and Ben Leber or even Furcal and Laird would have been lauded and praised, were relegated to blip status on page 7 of the sports section behind the Women’s World Cup and the International Discus Championships. Last year, we could not turn the radio dial without hearing talk of the Rams ownership situation; one that, quite frankly, pales in comparison to the story of tragic hero Dave Checketts who, finding himself defeated and beaten by a situation he didn’t quite grasp, had to go before his creditors and ask for an extension. The story practically writes itself, yet once again the Rosenblooms dominate the sports business pundits and pushes the Blues to the update desk, heard once every hour.
Yet, amongst all the detractions, amidst all of the doubters, non believers, and cynics, and in spite of the proverbial blackout that has seemingly been imposed upon the Blues, thousands of fans will gather on opening day and will speak in a voice that has been unchanged since the sixties: “this is our year!” Many will purchase the paper and throw away the first 6 pages of the sports section, sacrificing Discus and Futbol to soak up every letter of the Blues Preseason preview. The Blues are survivors, and like their fans, have a nasty habit of being a thorn in your consciousness. Its why Blues games make great first dates, “memorable” bachelor parties, and the best of birthday celebrations: The season ends, and there is a pang in your mind that wont fade until the first puck of next season is dropped on fresh Scottrade Center ice. The Blues may be the kid brother you love to pick on, and may catch the ire and the eye rolls of the media elite, but at the end of the day the hockey club does more with less than any sports team in the area, and in my opinion the country. The team may lack star power, real experience, media exposure, page one headlines, and a viable ownership situation that facilitates putting the best team on the ice that money can buy, but it more than makes up for it in blue collar attitudes, hard working, gritty soldiers, and ultimately bleeds that blue passion which leaves that ever present thorn.
And even if we could, we would never remove that pesky thorn.
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