I have to admit, I wasn’t a fan of the "Best Fans in Baseball" gimmick before it became a marketing ploy, but now that it’s gone full retard, I really hate it. Congratulating oneself for being the best fan of a particular sport is as short-sighted and stupid as declaring yourself one of the modest players who does things "the right way" (whatever the hell that means) and then staring down every homerun you hit like the ball is talking trash about your mom. It’s a very annoying narrative, no doubt in part because it is a narrative about us, St. Louisans, and the way we behave.
But it’s even more annoying because it’s true.
St. Louisans are a very passive aggressive people. They would never dream of asking you how much money you make or what your parents did for a living, but will never fail to ask you where you went to high school, giving them a quick snapshot of your financial history in the town. St. Louisans are very polite but that doesn’t necessarily mean they like you; it just means they’re polite. Applauding the great plays that opposing teams make in baseball games and providing standing ovations for former players may be nice and polite and all that but such actions are not necessarily the right thing to do. It’s not wrong, either; but it is just simply something we do. Maybe the rest of America hates it; maybe they don’t. I don’t really care because I see no reason to change.
Yankee fans, like my good friend and former college roommate, have been taking crap regarding the behavior of their obnoxious, entitled and grandiose fan base for years. And they didn’t change. In fact, they got worse. Yankee fans are happy to snidely laugh at the successes of any other team, even the Cardinals, and say "That’s cute; you think you’ve won some World Series? Call me when you break twenty." And they’re not necessarily rude about it, they’re just cocky pricks.
Boston fans, meanwhile, have been characterized as worrisome, superstitious zealots. And that stereotype has proven true to me also (though I know very few actual Boston fans). Their antics were considered cute when they were constantly in the throes of desperation, but after winning a World Series, the neuroticism they displayed ceased to be quirky and became almost instantly annoying. A woe-is-me attitude always seems out of place when "me" is doing so un-woefully.
Every fan base, especially in a game like baseball, which allows fans in the seats for a minimum of 81 games a non-strike year, gets reputations. Whether it be the come-late-leave-early Dodger fans, the don’t-come-at-all-Rays fans, the what-a-day-for-a-party Cubs fans or the despondent-to-the-point-of-wishing-it-would-all-go-away Indians fans, we all end up earning our reputations. This is not a bad thing. Teams develop traditions, regions develop traditions and thus regional fans develop traditions. There’s nothing inherently uncool about being the Best Fans in Baseball, even if it shows a hell of a lack of humility to actually express such.
Cardinal fans have earned their reputation as knowledgeable and nice fans but they have also earned their reputation for passive aggressive displays. And there is nothing wrong with that. Part of being Midwestern means owning agrarian roots, and farmers, with all their land and little company, are always hospitable and welcoming even to strangers that may visit them. Midwestern farmers are almost always nice to the new people they encounter; that does not mean they’re not suspicious. After all, you can shake a man’s hand with your right hand while still holding on to the butt of a pistol with your left. St. Louis fans are happy to promote a safe and friendly ballpark and they’re happy to be polite and friendly even to fans of the other team ("Nice meeting you; hope you lose" is not an uncommon expression when Cardinal fans meet fans of other teams at Busch III). And there is no reason to change.
The thing is: the narrative that St. Louis fans are polite, knowledgeable, nice and take pride in being polite, knowledgeable and nice is not a new one; it’s just that thanks to recent Cardinals’ success, the narrative is finally getting overblown nationally.
Or as my former college roommate told me:
"I think it’s cute people are finally paying attention to that steam bath you call a hometown. Oh and not for nothing, toasted raviolis are just stupid, Nate. Don’t know how the hell someone tricked an entire city into eating that garbage."
Every fan base gets the reputation it deserves, and if BFIB is that reputation, I’ll take it with a smile every time.
Especially when the Cardinals are in the post season.