Saturday, October 26, 2013

I've Learned a Lot from the Cardinals... I Never Thought It'd Go Here

Some love us, some hate us.  Regardless, we're talked about.  It's created such attention, that articles are being written on whether this phenomenon really exists, on whether players are choosing to play for St. Louis because of the fans.

Before I continue - you really should read the article that prompted this post.  Go ahead, go read it here. If you don't have time, I understand.  It is somewhat lengthy, and at times I wondered what direction the author was going to go with it.

To sum it up, the author's point is that fans of the St. Louis Cardinals are different.  

Considered a dirty word in some contexts, this particular valuation of being different has a positive connotation.  Here are just a couple of the {easily discerned} qualities of the normal St. Louis Cardinal fan.  (I'll heed, as he did, this by no means covers all Cardinal fans, but by far the majority.)

  • Cardinal fans are loyal.  They show up in droves for games.  They deck out in attire always.  The off-season only indicates a lack of play, not a lack of devotion.  I'll add, from a personal perspective, that they don't have to live in or near St. Louis to express this loyalty.  It really surpasses geography and is done so quite easily. 
  • Cardinals fans think on the Cardinals.  Though often unprompted, Cardinal fans think on baseball often.  They mention Cardinal baseball in everyday, unrelated conversations.  It comes up in hotel lobbies, in the airport, in restaurants, at work, etc.  Read the article above.  The author writes that weeks after the 2011 World Series concluded, in a commute in St. Louis his driver, when asked how he was doing, replied that he was just worried about the fate of Albert Pujols. Seasons over.  Winter is setting in.  Baseball is still on the brain.  More specifically, a certain player is on the brain.  Which brings me to my next item:
  • Players become family.  Geesh, fans become family.  It's like one big, ole happy family reunion at Cardinal games.  (Yes, a happy family reunion.  Who woulda' thought?!)  Fans know their players.  Sure, they know their histories and their stats, what real fan doesn't?  But they also know their passions, their charities, their roots.  We are interested in where they came from and where they are going.  We have to know these things.  We really want to care for our players. And we all know, the dreaded trades happen and beloved family members take off the family crest for the last time.  No matter.  Once in, adopted in for life.  Once ours, ours forever.  Ask Skip Schumaker how he felt when given a standing ovation during the NLCS when he was playing as a Dodger.  I need not mention that the standing ovation was given in Busch Stadium, by Cardinal fans.  It's expected here.  That's what we love about it.  That's what makes it so easy to be a fan.  
  • Play for another team?  No worries.  Cardinal fans make it easier to play in an opponents stadium.  Also mentioned in the article,  Cardinal fans, for all intents and purposes, don't boo.  Now, I'll admit I've been to many-a Cardinal games in my lifetime, and though I've never heard an entire stadium boo, I have heard some grumbling, but as I sit here and think of it, the circumstances surrounding the grumbling are often the same.  Pitch. The. Ball.  The runner at first,  yeah, you don't have Yadi behind the plate, so if he's going to go, he's going to go.  We aren't known for stealing all that often anyway.  Stop checking the runner.  Seriously.  Ahem. But overall, no booing.  And that's to be commended.  All of this can be summed up in one word: Respect.  Fans respect players.  Even opposing players. 
  • And lastly, they tend to be humble.  Don't get me wrong, there are some arrogant Cardinal fans out there.  They are probably the same ones booing or shouting at someone at a game.  I'm just saying.  But otherwise, Cardinals fans have a unique way of passionately loving their team, voicing it, wearing it... dare I say... living it without seeming arrogant.  Sure, we rejoice at winning, as any fan would.  Sure, we enjoy being called by others "the greatest fans in baseball", but for the most part, it's not something we brag about as much as it's something we enjoy in... not the title... the camaraderie and the passion.  

And here is where I make or break the article for most of you.  As I finished reading the linked article above... I felt conviction.  Major, gut wrenching, cut through to the heart conviction.  Not because I lack any of the above listed qualities in relation to the Cardinals.  I bear those well.  

But on the bigger scale, how many of us who claim to be Christians share the above qualities?  I mean, shouldn't this be what we look like?  Shouldn't we be loyal and faithful, not only on Sunday or when our lives are going great, but everyday?  Win or lose?   Shouldn't we be vocal?  Are the things of God often rolling from our lips?  Or are we silent?  Do we come off as a family?  Do we find camaraderie in our common denominator?  Do we relish in our relationships?  Do we mourn together and rejoice together?  Is our love for Christ something that brings us together despite our differences?  The Cardinal fans have that figured out.  

Do we live out our lives in such a way that we aren't loudly booing those who aren't on our side.  I'll be honest... I've grown a great love for the Cardinals team.  Trust me, I know stats and players like I never thought I'd know.  But the Cardinal franchise wasn't what drew me to the Cardinals as a young girl.  The Cardinal fans were.  They taught me how to be classy, how to be a loyal fan through wins and losses, how to treat opponents, how to give credit where credit is due.  They are vocal, but their actions make them... well... different.  The above article is spot on.  

How are we Christians doing at that?  

Would the world say we're humble?  Or would they say they are arrogant and rude?  

These are real questions we need to be asking.  

And I'm not promoting that by accomplishing all of these things we eliminate the haters.  Just as the author mentioned, many people hate the Cardinals, many people hate the fans.  

But what about people like the author?  What about those who see something different and enjoy it?  Think about the difference it could make.  Is this the reputation the new testament told us we should guard?  I think it's a part, for sure.  The way we love... God and others... should be evident.  

God and baseball are closer together at this point of mine then I've ever thought they would be.  All I know is this:  I'm fortunate to be a part of what is considered to be the greatest fans in baseball.  Being a part of that group has taught me a lot about class in athletics.  Today, it's taught me a lot about how I should carry that out in a much larger aspect of my life.  

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