America has turned on the St. Louis Cardinals.
The backlash started, more or less, with last week’s Drew Magary takedown on Deadspin, which featured these memorable lines about the team’s fans: “You are poorly disguised Yankees fans in ugly Christmas sweaters carrying a Jell-O mold to your neighbor’s door. And your constant attempts to turn every October into an extended production of Our Town makes me want to hang myself with a extension cord.”
The Cardinals are a very good baseball team. Their fans have every right to be happy.
You can’t blame the rest of us for not sharing their joy, though. Familiarity breeds contempt; people are tired of seeing the Cards in the post-season. Also, fans need someone to hate, and the Yankees are more likely to inspire pity at the moment.
Here’s another theory for the backlash: People are finally getting nauseated at the pious gloss that’s endlessly smeared across this “storied franchise.” Just before the Dodgers series got underway, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch transformed it, predictably, from a handful of baseball games into a morality tale: “This isn’t just a clash of cultures, but of architecture. Bankrolled vs. Built. The Best Team Money Can Buy vs. the club now being called The Best Organization in Baseball. One of the teams was built from the draft up, the other from the pocketbook down.” Guess which team was which? (Hint: The story was accompanied by a cartoon featuring Rich Uncle Pennybags of Monopoly fame in a Dodgers top hat, clutching a big sack of cash.)
If we needed another reminder that this was a team that plays the game the right way — The Cardinal Way — we got it after Game 3, when Carlos Beltran criticized the Dodgers’ young Cuban star, Yasiel Puig, for inappropriately showing emotion when he hit a triple. (Imagine!) Of course, Beltran is a Cardinal, so he didn’t want to sound mean about it. “I think with time,” he said of Puig, “he will learn that you have to sometimes act a little bit more calm.”