The St. Louis Cardinals have won 11 World Series titles, more than any organization in Major League Baseball other than the New York Yankees. And while Yankees fans have enjoyed their role as the "Evil Empire", a label ostensibly intended to be pejorative but now embraced by fans in the Bronx, Cardinals fans have, in my experience, been more reticent to be the bad guy. When national baseball writers have cajoled Cardinals fans by, say, predicting that the Cardinals will not win the World Series in 2015, Cardinals fans have reacted unhappily. And this wasn't even a hateful piece--it was a guy predicting that in the semi-randomness that is the MLB playoffs, a specific team is not likely to emerge as victors. Just wait until the latest edition of the Magary trollpiece (like with Back to the Future, I expect the first one to be good, the second one to be uneven, and this year's edition to, like, be in the Old West for some weird reason)!
And yet, fans will continue to care. Cardinals hatred will continue to bother a sizable chunk of Cardinals fans. And for those fans, I offer these five bits of advice.
1. Stop arguing, man: You don't need a reason to hate a sports team. Usually, the hatred comes first and the rationalization comes next, and there's nothing wrong with this. Because it's sports. It absolutely does not matter if people hate the St. Louis Cardinals. It doesn't matter if your Cardinals fandom annoys people. Have you ever received unequal protection under the law because you were wearing a Yadier Molina shirsey? Has saying the Cardinals were your favorite team ever cost you your job? No, because it's sports. No matter how much you love sports, non-sociopathic humans recognize that it's all silliness.
Like, I detest the New England Patriots. I hate everything about them. I despise Bill Belichick, I despise Tom Brady, I despise Robert Kraft, I despise all of their ex-coordinators and their fans and their logo and if I had to choose between a St. Louis Rams fan doctor and an ever-so-slightly-more-qualified New England Patriots fan doctor, I'm choosing the latter. Because I'm not an insane person. Likewise, if the worst thing that happens to you in your time as a fan of a team is a few people make fun of you because of the team you like, consider yourself lucky.
But most importantly, the only reason to argue to defend the team for which you root is if you feel guilty about it. And I don't feel guilty about rooting for the Cardinals. I don't root for the Cardinals because they win every year, or because I feel they represent some kind of morally righteous style--I root for them because I grew up 20 minutes away from Busch Stadium and what was I supposed to do? Root for the Padres?
2. You'd hate the Cardinals too. At least I would: We're pretty annoying. But this isn't even about us. All fans are annoying--fandom is inherently ridiculous. If you spend your leisure time defending a bunch of guys you've never met's sports playing, you're probably wasting your time. Bu that's true no matter what your team is. You'd hate the Cardinals because they're always around. And there's a pretty good chance they ruined your team's chance.
Unless you're a Giants fan, the Cardinals of recent vintage have given you pretty much every reason to hate them. Think of all of the very, very good teams who fell to the Cardinals in the postseason. The 95-win 2006 Detroit Tigers. The 96-win 2011 Texas Rangers. The 94-win 2012 Atlanta Braves. The 98-win 2012 Washington Nationals. The 92 and 94 win Los Angeles Dodgers of 2013 and 2014. Even worse, think of the teams which were very much lining up to make one big run at a title and were beat by the Cardinals--the 2006 New York Mets, the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies, the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers, and the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates particularly embody this type of team. Only five National League franchises have not lost in the postseason to the St. Louis Cardinals since 2002--the Giants, who lost to the Cardinals in the 1987 NLCS; the Cubs and the Reds, each of whom have finished behind the Cardinals in the division with playoff positioning on the line; the Rockies and the Marlins, who have lost a combined three postseason series ever.
We ruin everybody else's fun. It doesn't matter if it's justified. If they were ruining your fun, you wouldn't care.
3. They should hate you more if you don't care: As I just said, the Cardinals are, to the rest of baseball, fun vultures. A Cardinals fan doesn't appreciate an LDS victory to the extent that, say, a Brewers fan appreciates one. But fans don't actually control the outcomes of their favorite teams, and nobody is more cognizant of this fact that fans of that team's rival. Hence why it is so popular on social media to correct fans who refer to teams in the possessive sense. "Hey, we won the game!" "OH REALLY WHAT TEAM DO YOU PLAY FOR EXACTLY?" I find being the latter person in this exchange is a great courtship tactic, by the way. Just some friendly advice for you.
Anyway, the point is that as annoyed as Brewers fans may be that you're happy that your stupid greedy and selfish baseball team won another stupid postseason series, they're annoyed because they feel you aren't enjoying it sufficiently. Frankly, you owe it not only to yourself to enjoy Cardinals success, but also you owe it to fans of other teams. Because how annoying would it be to have the attitude that, you know, the Cardinals make the postseason every year and it's not really worth paying attention until the World Series? I would hate me so much for this.
I remember having a little pep talk with myself before Super Bowl XXXVI. "Look, John, this is awesome. The team you love, which was terrible a few years ago, went 14-2 and has a chance to win its second Super Bowl in three seasons. This team is a freaking dynasty in waiting. Enjoy it. You don't know when it's going to end. It's the freaking Super Bowl. This doesn't happen every year. You aren't entitled to it. You may never get this again."
Enjoy every second of this run. Eat it. Drink it. If you can find a way to inject postseason joy into your veins, use it responsibly.
4. Don't worry about the bad apples: Have you ever heard of the band Skrewdriver? Well, if you haven't, consider yourself lucky. In short, Skrewdriver was an openly neo-Nazi punk band. Like, they were literally Nazis. How about the Beatles? Have you heard of the Beatles? Now, which band do you think has a higher total of racist fans--Skrewdriver or the Beatles? Now, I don't have any stats to back this up, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it's the band that has sold over 600 million records worldwide.
This may seem like a ridiculous comparison, and it kind of is, but the point is that the popular thing is going to have more of everything associated with it. The Beatles also have more non-racist fans than Skrewdriver. They have more male fans. They have more female fans. They have more gay fans and more straight fans. They have more white fans, more black fans, et cetera. And the St. Louis Cardinals, whose fans have been labeled as racist, have more fans than most teams.
But the simplest reason why this is often goes ignored. No, not because St. Louis is a backwoods racist haven--fans of the St. Louis Rams and St. Louis Blues do not "enjoy" a reputation nearly as negative. It's because there's a lot of Cardinals fans. And when you want to paint a negative portrait of a group of people, it's way easier to do it when you have a large sample of people to pick from. If you wanted to create a narrative that St. Louis Cardinals fans are more racist on social media than fans of the Florida Panthers, it wouldn't be difficult because there are far more tweets, Facebook posts, etc. about the Cardinals than about one of the least followed teams in the NHL. Now, it would be just as easy to create a narrative that St. Louis Cardinals fans are more enlightened than Panthers fans, but why would anybody bother with this? This isn't how fandom works. This isn't how the internet works. Just about everybody feels more passionately about things they don't like than about things they do. There are plenty of accounts that just retweet a bunch of smart, reasoned Cardinals fans that have a couple hundred followers; @BestFansStLouis has over 24,000 (could've had one more if y'all hadn't blocked me!).
5. Screw it, go #FullHeel: Be insufferable. Why not? As I said before, enjoy it while you can. People are going to be annoyed no matter what you do, so you might as well get under their skin a bit. National sportswriters rack up page views by getting under YOUR skin, Joe Cardinals Fan. Get under the skin of others! Here's a few suggested lines.
"You know, it's actually been a while since the Cardinals won the World Series. People talk about how successful the Cardinals are but we haven't won a World Series in four years. And imagine if Nelson Cruz catches that ball--it'd be nine years!"
"The Cardinals haven't won a World Series on the road since 1967. Winning at home is nice, but there's something about going on a crusade of sorts to a visiting ballpark. It'd just be nice to experience."
"It's so stressful watching all of these playoff games and having to consider their ramifications in relation to the Cardinals. Like, I'm watching this Blue Jays/Rangers playoff game and having to think about who matches up against the Cardinals better if the Cardinals make the World Series. You Phillies fans are so lucky that you don't have to worry about that kind of thing."
"A lot of guys on this team who haven't won a World Series who really deserve one. Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Jhonny Peralta, Jason Heyward, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal...none of these guys have rings."
"Baseball is just more interesting when the Cardinals are in contention."
God speed, Cardinal Nation. Oh, another pointer for Operation #FullHeel: Use the phrase "Cardinal Nation." It's annoying and perfect. You've got this.