I’ve had this weekend mentally circled on my internal calendar for months. I was not looking forward to it.
For the first time in my life in which I was at an age where I could form lasting memories, the league which, like it or not, dominates the media (sports and otherwise) landscape like no other had its in-earnest opening on Sunday, and St. Louis did not have a team representing it.
For many people reading this, the St. Louis Rams were irrelevant, or perhaps even a minor annoyance. They were, objectively, a mostly-lousy NFL team: a team which fired its head coach for only winning six games in a season (in which he missed most of the season with a bacterial infection), and then two seasons later went on a three-year run in which they won a combined six games. But for others, they were a part of our lives, on par with or exceeding our passion for the much more successful St. Louis Cardinals.
I do not own a Nielsen box, so I know that a boycott of the NFL yesterday would have been completely irrelevant. So I didn’t refuse to watch the NFL as a matter of principle—I just didn’t care enough to turn it on. I don’t doubt that I will end up watching the Super Bowl at a minimum, and possibly less significant games in the future, but without my aggravating, frustrating mess of a team, it just felt pointless.
I can promise you that tonight’s late-night edition of Monday Night Football, in which the now-Los Angeles Rams square off against the San Francisco 49ers, will not be the game to break my possibly-brief NFL hiatus. There’s just too much potential for heartbreak—less the possibility of seeing Todd Gurley continue his excellent 2015 and wreak havoc; more the soft “the Rams are back home!” (a complete lie perpetuated strictly for marketing purposes) coverage which has been omnipresent for the last eight months, treating a business decision by a semi-reclusive billionaire as some kind of uplifting, benevolent tale of All That Is Right With Sports as though there weren’t legions of fans left out in the cold and told to accept it; that a fan base that invested its hard-earned money (not to mention its time and its passion) into a team should be docile when the team betrays them.
But while this new, Rams-less existence will be an adjustment, many of the things that made me care about this miserable mess of a franchise (the #1 overall draft pick that they paid a pretty penny for is behind Case Keenum and Sean Mannion on its depth chart; I’m not that worried that tremendous on-field success will make me sad in 2016) remain. Much of what fueled my caring about the Rams was not so much that I cared but that those who surrounded me did—that I could pick up my phone and text friends or family about how happy or sad (usually the latter) we were about our favorite team, that we could gather on a Sunday to join in the communal experience of, to borrow some baseball parlance, root root rooting for the home team.
It’s a relief, really, that the Cardinals and the St. Louis Blues still exist. I don’t want to participate in the post-Kroenke lionization of local sports ownership; it’s hard to have experienced what St. Louis sports have experienced regarding the Rams over the last few seasons without an acute awareness that professional sports ownership is ultimately a profit-driven business.
And in fifty years, Bill Dewitt Jr. won’t own the Cardinals and Tom Stillman won’t own the Blues. Even if we assume that Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League continue in their present forms in fifty years, with its St. Louis teams still intact, none of the current players will still be around. The coaches, the general managers...they’ll be gone. But no matter what happens to St. Louis sports, we will still be here. Our capacity for passion and energy and gathering as one for collective human experiences will continue. No person can prevent those experiences but us.
Here’s the links from Viva El Birdos over the weekend.
The Cardinals played the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday, winning 5-1 after a five-run explosion in the bottom of the eighth inning, in a game recapped by IHeartBoog. On Sunday, things were less awesome, with the Brewers winning 2-1, and WyoCardsFan did the recap.
Despite the successes of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization as of late, the Cardinals are on a tremendous streak of finishing ahead of them in the standings, as noted by Ben Markham.
The red baron examined the swing mechanics of Cardinals prospect Jeremy Martinez. If like me, you tend to not be able to see the forest for the trees, this in-depth examination works on a level I’m unable to grasp.
Tonight, we get a resumption of the best rivalry in baseball, as the Chicago Cubs come to town. I’m looking forward to the three-ish hour diversion.