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Being part of a team, without all the running

Staff writer

Please excuse me, everyone, I haven’t been acting like a sportswriter lately.

The sportswriter is calm, analytical, and logical. Fans are illogical lunatics, after all the term is based off fanatic. Since the St. Louis Cardinals have started their magical run to the World Series, making up 10.5 games from Aug. 25 and winning two underdog playoff series, I’ve reverted to a fan. I’m making up for lost time, I gave up on the Redbirds in late August.

I’ll start with getting mistaken for Grizzly Adams on the streets of Marion. I started growing a beard before the first series with the Phillies began. I was lazy and didn’t want to shave. I said my facial hair was an ode to the Redbirds, but I thought Pujols and company would fall to the daunting Philadelphia rotation.

With the euphoria of Chris Carpenter’s game five pitching craftsmanship in the City of Brotherly Love also came the sobering realization that I could not bring myself to shear this monstrosity.

Other odes to superstition: I feel like I have to watch every game. The math was simple — every game I watched during the Philadelphia series, the Cardinals won. The two games they lost fell during time periods where I was working.

During the series to Milwaukee, I decided I needed to have the Cardinals logo appear on my person. I watched game one without the “Birds on the Bat” blazoned on my chest. Wearing Redbird regalia, they were much more successful, only dropping one more game in St. Louis.

Taking this even further in the World Series, I wore my white off-brand Cardinals jersey while game three was in progress. When returning home from the regional volleyball tournament, I had enough time to witness two more home runs and three more RBIs from El Hombre on his record-setting night, a 16-7 win. I decided I would wear the jersey for the remainder of the series … well, until Oct 24.

I pulled the unbuttoned garb off my torso and furiously beat it on my hardwood floor as the Cardinals relentlessly stranded runners in scoring position during game 5.

The frustration of that contest faded as I tuned into game six on Thursday. It was the most exhilarating baseball game I’ve ever watched. Coming back from two, two-run deficits when the hitters were both facing two strikes is the most incredible feat in team history, and the Cardinals have won 11 championships.

The extra-inning affair nearly gave me a heart attack as the Redbirds had to overcome so many deficits.

The win in game 7 was merely the icing on the delicious cake, an 11th title and a World Series for the ages.

My point is that I was approaching mental patient status while the series was in progress. As wins and losses fluctuate, my mood swings are an equal roller coaster, varying from joy, anger, relief, and depression.

I actually love this feeling. Being a Cardinals fan is how I identify myself as a native St. Louisan, toasted ravioli and gooey butter coffee cake being in short supply in Kansas. And mainly, this unbridled fanaticism is what made me fall in love with sports in the first place.

Even though I yelled at my television throughout the duration of game five (yes, I know they can’t hear me), I wasn’t trying to find out why the Cardinals lost, ready to assign blame. I was ready to move on to game six.

As a fan, I want to be part of the team. Lately, I have been unabashedly been saying “we” when referring to the Cardinals, a habit my sports editor at the Columbia Missourian tried to vanquish in all his sports writers.

The desire to belong to something greater than yourself is what make sports great. It’s why people say sports can heal a downtrodden city — like with Detroit with Michigan State in the 2009 NCAA final four or with Detroit with the 1968 World Series (you see a theme here?).

Sports success can make the reality of life’s circumstances more palatable. Winning in sports made me happy, even if for a finite time period.

So go Cards, Warriors, Trojans, Cougars, and Bluebirds. Let us celebrate the excitement of victory through your wins. While the feeling may not last forever, we’ll carry those memories a long time.

Last modified Nov. 2, 2011

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