By Chris Gift
[This article appeared in the Mar. 20 edition of St. Louis Game Time.]
When I tell people that I live in St. Louis, and explain to them our little quirks that makes this city so loveable and so annoying at the same time, once I get past the â€œwe canâ€™t buy Sudafed unless we ask the pharmacist,â€ â€œwe have a big drainage ditch that runs through the south part of the city, but they call it a river,â€ and â€œI have no idea why theyâ€™re just redoing Highway 40 and not adding a fourth lane,â€ I usually end up with â€œand even though the new stadium isnâ€™t as cozy as the old one, people love going to Cardinal games.â€
Â Â Â Â The citywide love affair with the birds on the bat here is understandable, but after going nuts over two World Championships, two pennants, and a bunch of great players, something dawned on me.
Â Â Â Â Iâ€™d rather spend an evening in this building than in that park.
Â Â Â Â For the better part of three years now, we have all taken a fair amount of grief over our allegiances to this team, and this sport.Â But things are looking up, and Iâ€™m proud to say that I am a St. Louis Blues fan.Â The night of the Montreal game, when I had to buy my tickets off the street for over face value, had to wait in line for the bathroom between periods, and only could swipe one Game Time because of how crowded it was, it convinced me that night that we Blues fans will be growing in numbers and hopefully in voice too.
Â Â Â Â Since I wasnâ€™t at the Al MacInnis or Brett Hull retirement nights, and didnâ€™t make it to opening night this season, I hadnâ€™t been in a game that was anywhere near capacity for a long time. Â Vivian Picardâ€™s French version of O Canada, and her asking all of us to join her in singing the Star-Spangled Banner was great.Â The packed house was behind the team for the entire game.
Curtis Sanford let in two bad goals, another decent one and still the fans didnâ€™t leave, quit trying to help the team or go to the Build-A-Bear store.Â Even though the team gave up a goal right after tying it, I donâ€™t think anyone had any doubt that the Blues would rally and win.
Â Â Â Â Hereâ€™s the other thing that makes me more of a Blues fan than a Cardinal fan.Â When the Blues were down 3-0, sure there were some unhappy fans, but I didnâ€™t see one person leave.Â A Blues fan has more passion than a Cardinal fan.Â Well, maybe it is patience more than passion, but being behind the team either way is what counts.
Â Â Â Â Â IÂ wonder what the fall out would have been inside â€œCardinal Nationâ€ if the team traded its three best players over the course of the past two trade deadlines, and traded a player better than all three of them combined the season before?
Â Â Â Â Letâ€™s see how great â€œthe best fans in baseballâ€ are if the Cardinals are picking first overall one year, and in the running for another high draft pick again. There were 19,421 people at the Montreal game.Â The building was over 90% full (the team said it was a sellout, but it takes a little over 20,000 to sell out Scottrade), and this team is hovering around the .500 mark.
Â Â Â Â The last losing season the Cardinals had without Mark McGwire on the team was in 1995.Â The team went 62-81 in the strike delayed season.Â The team drew an average of 24,399 fans, or a little bit less than half of the capacity at the time.
Â Â Â Â Ninety percent full vs. half full, and the Cardinals have the best fans?
Â Â Â Â Yes, I realize Iâ€™m talking out of both sides of my mouth, or from both the eastbound and westbound lanes of the â€œPopularâ€ Street Bridge.Â I love the Cardinals, I really do.Â Iâ€™ll never forget the night of Game 5 of the World Series this year, or any of the other memories I have of the team.
Â Â Â Â But I realized little by little over the course of this season, and Iâ€™m now thoroughly convinced that I am a St. Louis Blues fan, first and foremost.Â