Conditional Love

The whole world is snowed in today, it seems. Here in my little corner of the world we actually somehow managed to miss the worst of it; there's only a few inches of snow currently sitting on top a nice hard crust of ice. So, you know, you get the bad without so much of the fluffypretty and delicious snow on top. Still, it's nice enough looking out the window I had to dig out Dean Martin's "Marshmallow World" and play it twice this morning when I got up.

This particular post is a holdover topic; I had planned to write this last week before software issues and time constraints conspired to make it impossible. Oddly enough, it's exactly as timely this week as it was last week, which is a rarity. Usually things change from week to week and what we thought and felt last week isn't the same this week. Given the current holding pattern (and the accompanying rise in the collective blood pressure of the fanbase), the Cardinals find themselves in with regard to Albert Pujols' new contract, though, this might actually be more timely now than it was a week ago.

What I want to talk about today is love. No, not my usual wistful laments about decade-old girl regrets or holiday-themed maudlin' spells. I want to talk a little about the love I imagine most of us here have for our boys in red.

See, the thing is this: seeing the Cardinals sign Nick Punto really, really pissed me off. Enough that I simply ignored it and refused to write a single thing about the move, either here or in my RFT gig. What's a little funny, of course, is that no move involving Nick Punto has ever been meaningful enough in any way to cause a person to feel an actual emotion of any strength whatsoever. Still, seeing the same old bottom-of-the-barrel, supposedly-harmless-but-also-useless veteran signing just put me in a black mood for several days.

 I'll be the first to admit I'm much more fond of Tyler Greene than he probably deserves; given the level of actual success he's had in the major leagues he's not worth getting upset over. But I found myself raging inwardly about another year in limbo for Greene, another season of watching him bounce up and down from the minors, never seeing him in a long enough audition for him to ever get his feet under him, all because the Cards just had to have the brilliant backup third base skills of Nick Punto on the roster. Or, even if Greene stays with the big club, we certainly won't see Dan Descalso get a chance to prove whether he belongs at the big league level. His ceiling is probably a utility guy anyway, but at least we would know for sure. But no, instead we're going to watch Nick Punto's washed-up act all season long.

And so it went in my head. Pointless worry over a season that's still a long way off. I'll bet plenty of you do much the same thing.

So how does this relate to Albert Pujols's contract situation, you ask? Because people are angry the greatest Cardinal of our generation isn't locked up to some gigantic contract yet. Because I've heard, and read, plenty of people who claim to be Cardinal fans saying things like, "If the Cardinals let Pujols walk, I'm done with the team."

I'm angry because the Cardinals are making what I think are stupid moves, bringing in the same tired veterans we see every Tony La Russa team field year after year when there are better (or at least newer), options coming up through the farm system. I grumble about the manager, and I bitch about Nick Punto, and I lament the Hall of Fame career some part of me seems to think Tyler Greene could have if only he were given a chance. There are times when I honestly feel such frustration that I think to myself how much easier it would be to follow the Cards if I didn't care about them as much as I do.

In the end, though, it doesn't change anything. I love this stupid team, and I honestly don't know if anything they could do would ever change that. And that's where the Albert Pujols contract talk comes in. Pujols is easily the best player I've ever seen play in person, and he obviously gives the Cardinals the best chance to win of any option they could realistically consider at first base. If he leaves, though, I'll still love the Cardinals. It will be frustrating to watch them struggle to score runs (I assume they will, in fact, struggle to score runs without Albert), and I may even occasionally be heard to voice the odd complaint about cheap owners and the like. But they'll still be my team.

So this is my question to you on this widespread snow day: is there anything the Cardinals could ever do that would cause you to simply renounce you fandom? If they don't sign Albert will you take that as a sign ownership simply doesn't care about winning and walk away from the team? Or what about if they do sign him but refuse to raise payroll enough to field a competitive team consistently? If they sign the worst of the steroid crop? If they raise the price of a beer at the stadium to fifteen bucks? Very few of us ever manage to stop loving the people and things we care about, even when they hurt us.

The one exception, and really the only situation I'm not interested in hearing much about, is if the team moved. That's such a cataclysmic event that I think, in such a scenario, all bets are really off, and I wouldn't blame anyone for any reaction they had. Moving changes the identity of a team in a way other things don't; it's sort of like your spouse coming home one day and announcing they're getting a sex change. Like it or not, they're not the same person anymore, and it almost has to alter your world. So team movement isn't really what I'm talking about here. Anything short of that, though, is fair game.

For me, the answer is likely no, I don't think there's anything the Cardinals could ever do to make me stop caring. I root, as they say, for laundry, but it's a little more than that. I'm rooting for all those times the only thing my dad and I have to talk about is baseball, because it's the only thing we have in common. Or the styrofoam boater I got as a stadium giveaway when I was seven and insisted on wearing in public because I thought it was the greatest thing I had ever seen. I still have my miniature bat from 1988, another stadium giveaway, packed away in my attic. I don't know if I'll ever display it, but I am certain I'll never throw it away.

In short, I'm rooting for all the memories I have of this team, and the huge part of my life it's been up to this point. One player, no matter how transcendent, will not change that by signing a deal with another team. Nor will any one player, no matter how unneeded or frustrating I find his presence, turn me away just by being on my team.

How about you?

As a public service, I would also like to offer you a list of five excellent things to do on a day when you're probably avoiding going outside at all costs.

  1. Have Sex -- Let's face it; the very best reason for bad weather to exist might be the convenient excuse it gives us to stay inside and consider a world where pants don't exist.
  2. Make Snow Ice Cream -- A big bowl of snow, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. The perfect elixir to restore the energy you expended practicing number one on this list.
  3. Clean Your Shoes -- Seriously. Look at your shoes. They need some tender loving care, badly. I'm going to be cleaning and sorting every last pair of shoes I own this afternoon. (And trust me, as many as I have it's a rather more daunting task than you might think.)
  4. Watch Fish-Eye Lens Music Videos -- Because once upon a time there was a man named Hype Williams who invented the rap video. And there was much fish-eyeing, and much rejoicing. Here's one of my favourite examples, mostly because the song itself contains one of my favourite samples in the history of rap music. (Mazzy Star videos tend to be good for some good fish-eye shots, as well.)  
  5. Stare Out The Window and Wait For Spring -- Hey, if it was good enough for Rogers Hornsby it's good enough for you. 

The Baron's Playlist for the 2nd of February, 2011 

"Weekend" - Smith Westerns

"Ain't It a Shame" - Nobunny

"Bound to Let Me Down" - The Parting Gifts (featuring the eternally brilliant Greg Cartwright) 

"Lust for Life" - Girls

"The Golden Age" - Resonars

"Oh, Bessie!" - Teeth

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