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The Cardinals: Sorry we're so annoying at being good at baseball.

I was going to post some minor league wrap up musings this morning, until I read this fantastic piece of sports journalism over at Grantland late in the afternoon on Friday. Seems like it deserves some sort of response...

Hard to find a better picture of excellence.
Hard to find a better picture of excellence.
Michael B. Thomas

Occasionally it's good to get an outsider's perspective, whether that be taking your grumpy old man to a favorite restaurant and having him ask where the cheeseburger is on the oak leaf menu card or asking for a professional opinion on what, in your view, might be the greatest piece of sports journalism ever and have it come back looking like something Count Dracula might have used as a napkin.

As Cardinals fans, we're mistakenly under the impression that our boys are liked and respected around baseball by most fan bases that aren't used to watching us dash the dreams of their favorite teams come August (or perhaps October). Reality checks are helpful, even if they're full of hyperbole and half truths. That's what made the "crying birds" drama so poignant back in 2011 and it's what makes Baumann's "hit piece" such a fun read for a fan of team that's seen so much success. We know that Cub fans loathe us in between 24 oz plastic cups of crappy beer but we didn't realize ya'll felt that way too!

So much to unpack in this rollicking, backhanded-insult fest, so let's just start here:

I’d feel this way about the Cardinals even if they didn’t exude the smug self-entitlement that comes from their combination of winning and, at least from a narrative perspective, Playing the Game the Right Way.

Would you, though?  Would you really?  It seems to me that you're trying to put on the faint airs of hating success for the sake of it, a bit like that guy we all know who thought Louis CK was awesome before everyone knew who he was and has spent the last half decade calling him a hack.

As far as "Playing the Game the Right Way," can I point out that your own media empire has spilled a lot of digital ink and precious air time talking about how Yasiel Puig doesn't do such things?  How his teammates dislike him due to his irrational exuberance and showmanship and not being on time all the time?  In reality, you all want everyone to play the game the right way, too. It's just that you don't actually play the game, which makes it less pretentious and certainly less presumptuous to the rest of baseball.

Not only that: If you've read this blog at all, it's pretty clear that the Cardinals don't always play the game the right way in the first place, and our manager certainly likes to add a lot of bumps in an already well worn road, basically trying to throw up obstacles in front of this well oiled machine.

Long story short, not only are the Cardinals too great to exist in our flawed universe, they’re the official team of Punchable Face Syndrome. They’re the Pittsburgh Penguins or the FC Barcelona of baseball.

That may very well be, but at least our players are allowed to sport facial hair and have more than one style of haircut, unlike that other team you might nominate for the intergalactic Punchable Face award. Perhaps that's why you hate our boys so much: They're allowed to have some level of personality while winning baseball games, which is just totally unfair. You'd rather see excellence in the form of military utility, the form of "we're better than you because we're classier than you" (better known as "The Jeter") because at least then you have the irrational defense of having more fun than those guys do. When a team has a lot of success and really enjoys it? Pitchforks and torches time.

And then, of course, there’s the Best Fans in Baseball thing. The most annoying thing in sports is a fan base that buys into the idea that it’s special. That its city or its culture is somehow unique, and therefore it deserves a team that is not only of a particular quality, but that’s guaranteed to deliver success. In this respect, Cardinals fans probably aren’t as bad as Steelers fans, Cowboys fans, or fans of any team from New York, Philadelphia, or [turns and faces New England, places head down, thrusts double-barreled middle fingers into the air] Boston, but they’re like an egg: a yolk of exceptionalism, arrogance, and xenophobia covered with a thin shell of Midwestern aw-shucksness that anyone who’s paying attention knows better than to trust.

Why is it that everyone always blames Cardinals fans for this nickname?  As if we're Terry Bollea and suddenly decided to become Hulk Hogan because Terry Bollea is a terrible wrestling name?

We don't say this about ourselves, media personalities, opposing players, and baseball people say it about us.

It's quite the compliment, really, and it goes without saying that we appreciate it.  But it's not like we roll into Chicago on the "Best Fans in Baseball Tour" every year, bringing a dose of Midwest Nice, toasted ravioli, and pie. We don't think we're special, we think we're lucky. Lucky to have a baseball team that consistently defines itself by the excellence that came before it and striving to live up to that standard every time they take the field.

If you hate that kind of thing, then you really just hate sports.