For years, Cardinal fans have been called the best fans in baseball. The title was bestowed upon us not because we consistently cheer for our team but because, overall, we have a knowledge base that exceeds the fans in other cities. We appreciate good baseball. We recognize history in the making and acknowledge the impact that the past has on our present.
St. Louis is notorious for applauding good plays by players on other teams and for welcoming home guys who have moved on to other teams with standing ovations. We are smart fans. We love it when our coach defends his players in the face of a bad call. We get caught up in the emotion of a close game or a bench clearing brawl. We feel like WE win when our team wins and we feel like WE lose when they lose. Those are some of the things that make us the best fans in baseball.
St. Louis fans are also set apart from other fans because we show up. We fill the stands. We sit in the rain and the cold and the heat of July. We arrive at the ballpark early and we stay until the last pitch of the last inning. We endure losing streaks because we believe our team will turn it around. At least that's how it used to be. We do not boo our own team like they do in other cities. We do not applaud bad play but we show our displeasure by not being an active and vocal part of the game. We save our booing for the umpires and the protests of our opponents.
Yesterday, one of our guys voiced his displeasure with the St. Louis fans who booed him. I submit that ten years ago, fans would not have done that. I would also suggest that we have forgotten what makes Cardinal fans the best fans in baseball. We are not Yankees fans who regularly boo their own team. We are not Braves fans who don't even show up during the playoffs. We are not Reds fans who only show up for the playoffs. We are not Dodger fans who arrive by the 3rd and leave in the 7th. We are Cardinal nation. We are embarrassed by bad fan behavior. We feel an obligation to be there for our team, to be a part of the sea of red, to wear our Cardinal pride on our sleeve. We are loyal and true. We understand that the definition of a fan is quite simply "an enthusiastic devotee" or an "ardent admirer" and that doesn't mean "only if they play well."
Being a St. Louis Cardinal alone does not entitle you to cheering. Wearing the birds on the bat is not enough to endear throngs of fans. It is not enough to win them over. There is a high level of expectation that comes with the uniform. The Cardinals have a long history of not only good baseball but also personal pride in efforts on the field, a love for the city for whom they play and a determination to succeed, whatever it takes.
Although there is a high level of expectations for our team and we expect effort that goes above and beyond our competition, being a St. Louis Cardinal fan does not give you the right to boo your team. It does not require that you cheer either. We might believe that giving 100% on the field honors the players that came before you and that a city that loves it's team as much as St. Louis does deserves nothing less than the best; however, we cannot expect to receive anything more than we are willing to give.
Call me crazy. Or delusional. (And many of you have already done so...) But I think it's time to get back to our roots and to remember what makes us the best fans in baseball.