I love the Cardinals. You wear that bird on a bat on your chest, and you have a pass from me for life. Albert Pujols, Tom Pagnozzi, Yadier Molina, Jack Clark, Ozzie Smith, Terry Pendelton, Willie McGee, Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Brian Jordan; I don’t care who you are. You represent St. Louis baseball, and you’re fine with me.
But I live and die St. Louis Blues hockey, and this season is killing me. What are my most prized posessions, in order? Brett Hull’s autograph, Brendan Shanahan’s autograph, Curtis Joseph’s autograph, and a puck from the first season that they introduced that trumpet logo. To watch a team make it to the playoffs 25 or so years in a row, and then only make it once in the past six… to watch a team go from great potential to mediocrity back to a youth movement that has been felled by injuries and circumstance? I feel like someone’s kicking me in the gut.
The way to make me feel better? Oh, gee, I don’t know. Move to Atlanta, wait seven horrible years with only NHL94 to get me through, and then start going to Thrashers games. I have two tickets from the first game that they played here in Atlanta – the home opener of 1999. I have a program; I have the commemorative magazine. For God’s sake, I own a Patrick Stefan jersey. Being away from St. Louis, and loving the sport as much as I do, I couldn’t not pull for the scrappy Thrashers, and I still feel the same way. The Blues are my guys, but the Thrashers are like the little brother team that you want to do well, because they deserve it. Both teams do – they try, they fight, they kick, they play their asses off, and then whoomp.
The Blues and Thrashers aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet, but it’s dangerously close. It’s another season that’s over in April; another season without playoffs. Yet another one without a Cup, and one for both teams surrounded by ownership issues. Atlanta’s fighting to stay put; the Blues’d like an investor to allow them to sign someone for a decent salary. It’s frustrating. And it’ll probably repeat next year – or at least that’s how fans of the two teams feel, because we’re conditioned to feel that way.
It’s ok. I’ll be in my seat at Philips next year. I’ll spend money on Center Ice to watch the Blues. I’ll be keeping track of my God awful law that I’m sure will continue just to spite me. One of these years, fellas, though, you’re going to have to give me a cookie. One of you will recognize that I’ve been a loyal fan for eleven seasons in a region where many say that hockey can’t exist – and there are thousands of people like me who feel the exact same way. We want you to win; we want Atlanta to be the hockey hotbed that we know it can be.
The other of you will have to come to realize that you’ve made me a pariah in my hometown. The Cardinals – they’re my first sports love. They have been since I was five years old. But you, Blues? You are, without a doubt, my favorite sports team. I want you to succeed more than baseball, more than the hometown kings of St. Louis. How about you give it a real solid go, then?
I have faith that you can do it. Next season.