Sara Schmitz 4/13/2014
Since 2005, I’ve been living behind enemy lines. I have had my heart broken, I’ve been beaten (verbally) and I’ve had to find ways to defend myself in all possible scenarios. This is the life of a Cubs fan in St. Louis.
How I got to St. Louis is a long story. I grew up on the south side of Chicago with a Cubs fan for a father, dedicated to the Cubs having grown up listening to WGN radio. My grandmother (his mother in law) was a White Sox fan, and she was probably just as devout of a Sox fan as she was a Catholic. Nothing anyone says will ever convince me that she did not have a part in them winning the 2005 World Series, as she died a few months prior. She knew she couldn’t help them win on Earth, so she went on to the afterlife to help them pull that off. I have probably spent equal time at Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park (always Comiskey, never “the cell”). I loved both teams equally, but have developed much more of an affinity to the Cubs over the years (sorry Grandma). My point is that I am used to living in a place where the whole city and everyone I know do not root for the same team.
Living in St. Louis is a whole new experience. St. Louis has a tendency to believe that they are the center of the universe. It is a difficult thing to describe to people who have not lived here, but St. Louis is very “ethnocentric”, if you want to consider St. Louisans an ethnic group. This ethnocentricity is most evident during baseball season. Even when the Cardinals aren’t in first place, they will constantly remind you that they are better than the Cubs. And if the Cubs are ahead of the Cardinals (yes, it happens) they will remind you that the Cardinals won a World Series or two in the past ten years. I’m not denying that the Cardinals have had some great players, because they have. If there is one thing I grew to appreciate living in a split city like Chicago, it is good baseball no matter who I’m watching. But even in White Sox territory, I have never had people tell me that they actually consider “Cubs hating” a hobby. Even my devout grandmother came around to accepting the Cubs as a team. I have had more than a few people tell me living here that they indulge in Cubs hating as a pastime as much as baseball is a pastime. Last summer at a Cubs vs Cardinals game, I had a child no more than 6 scream “Cubs Suck!” at me with such venom I had to wonder if there was something else wrong with this child. It is very apparent to me that probably half of the people in this city spend more time hating the Cubs than they do actually enjoying their own team. I don’t go around wearing Cubs gear to every Cardinals game I go to (unless they are playing the Cubs, of course) but I do wear blue in some way. A good soldier camouflages themselves when needed.
In my experience, I have found that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. And with the amount of time people here spend hating the Cubs and bringing it up at any opportunity, I find it difficult to believe that they really hate the Cubs. And if they do, perhaps it is because there is an underlying fear there. Why would they spend so much time making jokes that don’t make sense (“Wrigley Field: the world’s largest gay bar” for example) about a team that they don’t perceive to be a threat? I’m not delusional, I know the last time the Cubs won a World Series and the last time they were in the playoffs, and how many more championships the Cardinals have in their history. And as I said, I have been to many Cardinals games over the past few years and have seen some good baseball. So I’m not saying the Cubs have been in contention all these years and there is some conspiracy to keep them out. However, I have also seen some t-shirts dedicated solely to “hating” the Cubs, instead of loving their own team. St. Louis feels the need to hate a team that is nowhere near them in the standings much of the time. I give you Exhibit A: The photo below actually made the news in 2011. Someone took so much time to write words in the snow that are practically visible from space, and instead of showing love for your team, you show hatred toward another.
Indulge me in reading one last little anecdote before I finish up, would you? When people find out I’m a Cubs fan living here, I let them know that I am not from St. Louis, so they don’t think I’m some rouge St. Louisan who would dare be a fan of anyone else but the Cardinals. So when I saw a guy out to dinner one night wearing a Cubs hat, I immediately asked what part of Chicago he is from. His response astounded me. He said he was born and raised in St. Louis, just liked the Cubs. I bought the guy a beer. Any good soldier deserves a free drink now and then.