By Chris Gift
Like most other little boys of the 1980s, in my youth, I was hooked on indoor soccer. Namely, the St. Louis Steamers.
From Slobo in goal (as an aside, I was shocked to see that Slobo passed away a few weeks ago, that and I was shocked that he was in his fifties. There's a sign that we're all getting old, even us Steamer fans) to Steve Pecher, Carl Rose, and Tony Bellinger on defense. Plus forwards such as Don Ebert, Ricky Davis, Njego Pesa- face it, for most of the people reading this column, I could put Richard Marx's name down as one of the players and most people wouldn't
give two shits know if he was a former Steamer or not. I knew, and loved the Steamers, and was a season ticket holder.
My first official sports road trip was to Kemper Arena to see the Steamers play (and lose to) the Kansas City Comets (little did I know how often I'd be making sports road trips in the coming years).
When most of the city was having a Fred Knipscheer fit about the Blues leaving for Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, I was worried that Tony Glavin's chronically terrible knees weren't going to make it through another season.
Hell, I thought Hartford was in Canada, and that Canucks had an H in it.
But being curious, and sometimes bored during games, (right, Kelly and Liam Gallagher?), I tried to start to figure out just what in the hell they used the old barn for when the Steamers weren't filling it up on a weekly basis (they averaged 17,107 a game in the 1982-1983 season).
I wondered why the Steamer games were always on Friday nights. As a God-fearing Catholic School Boy, eating the cheese pizza at the Arena on Friday nights during Lent got old.
I wondered why it was always cold in the Arena.I was puzzled by the large mounds of shaved ice outside the garage doors with the funny looking trucks by them.
I didn't know why if the Steamers were kicking an orange ball there were black marks on the end boards.
Then my sister started dating a guy from Canada.
I wasn't even 10, but before I knew it I was quickly saying "eh?" after every fifth word.
He taught me how to skate. He attempted to get me to learn to shoot left.
He helped me transform my basement from the Arena where the Steamers play, to the Arena where the Blues play (we threw away the Nerf soccer ball, and replaced it with a few sticks and plastic pucks). We even installed Plexiglas- once a puck went through the window, and my dad went through the roof.
After seeing my aptitude, or lack there of, for both skating and shooting, he reminded me how much fun the game was to watch too.
Pretty soon the season tickets for the Steamers stopped, and I was infatuated with this new sport I was learning- hocky as I used to spell it habitually.
My buddies at school also seemed to catch the hockey bug at the same time.
Slobo left my thoughts and Rick Wamsley and Greg Millen replaced them. Pecher, Rose, and Bellinger? No thanks, I'd moved on to *cough, cough* stalwarts like Brian Benning, Ric Nattress, and Gaston Gingras. Forwards? Mark Hunter, Bernie Federko, Brian Sutter, the young Rod Brind'Amour, Gilmour…I loved all of them. Even ding-a-lings like Tony Hrkac, Doug Evans, Mark Reeds, and Eddy Beers (boy if Game Time was around back then, would he have been popular) were part of the team I went to sleep thinking about- now it has become…well, I'll keep those thoughts to myself.
I remember seasons where I might go to a game. The chill in the air, the bright white of the Blues home sweaters reflecting off of the even brighter white of the freshly zambonied ice hooked me. So did the sounds of skates cutting into ice, and tape-to-tape passes, plus the oohs an ahhs of the crowd- next time you’re at a game, close your eyes and just listen to how great the game sounds.
The Steamers drifted away into Bolivion, and the Blues (with some kid named Brett Hull- who I used to call Brent) gained more and more prominence in the local media, in my classroom, and more importantly my thoughts.
Now, and not because of the little newspaper thing that we have going, I feel lost if I don't go to a home game.
I've gotten to the point in my life where I realize that sports are nothing more than an escape from reality. I realized that as I pickled my liver the night the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006, only realizing that my hungover ass had to be reffing a soccer game at 8:00 the next morning. That no matter how good or how bad your favorite team is, life goes on, and to not live and die with each win, loss, or overtime loss.
That's all well and good, unless you're talking about the Blues. Much like everyone else that contributes to the website and newspaper, or reads either one, I love the Blues. I've learned that it is okay to live and die with them, if you don't mind losing.
I'm just happy my sister didn’t start dating a Mexican.