Thursday, April 21, 2005

Editorial of the Month: Cubs vs. Cardinals

Rivalries make sports, its as simple as that. When you think of the best rivalries, you think of Michigan vs. Ohio State in college football, two schools that absolutely hate each other, seperated by the border. College basketball's best rivalry is seperated by 8 miles, quite simply the best rivalry in college sports is Duke vs. North Carolina. When you think of pro sports and you think of football, you think of Bears-Packers, Cowboys-Redskins and the Raiders vs. the Broncos. Basketball's rivalries are enhanced because of individual matchups, but factor in the major markets. Lakers vs. Celtics was all about Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The Bulls were up against everyone during the late 80s and early 90s, but what stuck out was the Bulls vs. Pistons because of the underdog status the Bulls had led by MJ and the bully status of the Bad Boys of Detroit. Bulls-Knicks was always about Jordan turning it up in front of his hometown folks, on Broadway, the biggest stage in sport, Madison Square Garden. Jordan vs. Ewing, yeah, that was good. Jordan vs. Spike Lee, oh yeah that was good. Now, the hoops game is all about individual rivalries that after a while get really old and are honestly over hyped. LeBron vs. Carmelo, Kobe vs. Shaq, A.I. vs. Larry Brown are all overhyped attempts by the NBA to be marketable again. The real rivalry now in the NBA is Detroit-Indiana. (Note: I totally forgot about Knicks-Pacers, Reggie vs. Spike Lee, THAT WAS THE RIVALRY OF THE 90s!!!) Now we move to baseball's rivalries. In a baseball world that revolves around Yankees-Red Sox (The Evil Empire vs. The Little Engine That Could and That Did Because they Spend Just as Much as the Yanks) and Dodgers-Giants (aka The City of Los Angeles vs. Barry Bonds) one rivalry gets absolutely no dap is Cubs-Cardinals.
Cubs-Cardinals gets overlooked for several reasons. One reason is because it is away from the East Coast media giants and the perception is that they don't bring in as much money as the Yanks and Sox. Another is because recently, the Cubs haven't been holding up their end of the bargain. But damn, there was a period when the Red Sox were finishing third and fourth behind Baltimore and Toronto. What makes this rivalry stand the test of time is the fact that no matter what the records are the games are going to be played closely, they're going to be intense and they will be entertaining. Cubs-Cardinals doesn't need the hype that the East coast gives all of their rivalries because it is one of the most pure rivalries in baseball, let alone, sports. Their connected by I-55, seperated by about 400 miles and have the central-southern part of the state torn. The Cubs are in state, but the Cards are closer (and usually better.) But once again, this rivalry is pure, strictly baseball. Everyone talks about Ruth being sold by the Sox to the Yankees, but baseball people always remember Brock-for-Broglio which sent in the end the greatest basestealer of all time for a washed up second baseman. Yeah, don't think Cards fans don't remind us Cubs fans about that, they rub it in at every occasion. The Yanks and Sox might draw better crowds, based on stadium size, but if you've ever been to Wrigley for a Cubs-Cards game, you always walk out with the same question, how did they squeeze 45,000 in this place. Sure, the stadium attendance says 38,000+ but don't forget about standing room only. Oh yeah, and they can only legally say 40,000 because of safety regulations, can't have that many people in such a small area legally, but the Cubs get away with it. Oh and the Cards draw too, they drew 80,000 the last two games, in fact, they were the first sell-outs since Opening Day. So really, you can't say this rivalry has no history, because that's only part of it.
Let's look at the baseball side of things for a second and give you a quick history lesson about the most underrated rivalry in all of sports. Let's look at June 1984, the renowned "Sandberg Game" where Cubs Hall of Fame 2nd Baseman Ryne Sandberg hit a game tying homerun off former Cub and Cy Young winner Bruce Sutter. He later hit a game winning home run in that game that eventually propelled the Cubs to win the NL East that year. Let's move to 1998, simply stated Sosa-McGwire. Enough said, the two men that single handedly brought baseball back to life with the Great Homerun Race. The Cardinals suffered with a losing record while McGwire broke the homerun record and the Cubs catapulted because of the MVP season of Sammy Sosa. Let's move to 2001 where the Cards dominated the Cubs in a season that the Cubs finished 4 games out of the division with another classic collapse led by Don Baylor. My favorite part of the rivalry was in 2003. They catapulted the Cubs into the playoffs in September 2003 in that 5 game series. Prior dominated in game one of a double header and in game 2 drama filled the air when Kerry Wood kept knocking opposing pitcher on his ass and a controversial call by rookie umpire Kevin Kelly (who always seems to screw the Cubs.) Then the next day when Dusty and LaRussa got into that heated argument where they went back and forth and the television caught it all. Then the game I will never forget, the Cubs came back from a 6-0 hole to win 7-6 in the best game of 2003. I left school and it was 6-0, decided not to listen because I wasn't in the mood to go through heartbreak. I got home and it was 6-5, and I stayed on my couch until the Cubs pulled it out in the greatest comeback in my history as a Cubs fan. Let's move to 2004 where the Cardinals dominated and basically broke the Cubs spirits in the series which I personally point to as the downfall of that 2004 team. Game 1, Cubs lose their temper as Carlos Zambrano plunks Jim Edmonds and gets kicked out to a standing ovation by Cubs fans. Game 2, LaTroy Hawkins blows his top after he blows a lead. Game 3, I will never foret the Cubs blowing a 7-1 lead and losing 11-7 because Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins didn't believe in getting anyone out and gave up homers reminding me of those mid-90s Cubs.
Alright, it's not heavily hyped and no one really cares about Cubs-Cards world wide. But you know what don't tell anyone in the midwest that. Because honestly, we could care less about what the East says about us. We just know that if you want a baseball rivalry based on location, knowledgeable die-hard fans on both sides, a battle for one state and the pure sport of baseball and one that isn't centered around some overhyped curse, I personally invite you to Cubs-Cardinals, there's nothing like it.

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