By Lisa Ruefenacht
I like baseball, but not for the same reasons most people do. I could care less about the actual game; I”m more into the peanuts and malts, the Jumbotron dot races, the circus of fragrances, the unparalleled people-watching. The overall experience is what I crave – the game is a mere side effect.
It”s ironic I happened to be in St. Louis during the World Series – I was there for a journalism convention and was only aware it was World Series season because my desk in the newsroom sits near the sports desk. It was an interesting experience.
Rarely have I seen such undying affection from one group of men toward another. The barrage of red in St. Louis offended my eyes. “Go Cards” signs adorned all the downtown buildings. The water in a nearby fountain was dyed red. Cardinals paraphernalia was in overbearing abundance.
It all made me a little sick.
It doesn”t make any sense, then, that the night of Game Five I was an excited wreck, eager to join the Cardinal crowd outside Busch Stadium and feign devotion to a team I once confused for the Phoenix Cardinals. I never felt the urge to wear a piece of red clothing; I still didn”t care about the score. But I wanted to be there, in that stadium, with thousands of people who wanted something that seemed so insignificant to me. It confused me more than the entire world of sports!
What compels people to root for a certain team? What draws people to watching overweight men, often accused of not being real athletes since, from what I understand, they have a coach at every base? What suckered me into the momentum of the World Series, an event I care just as little about a few days after as I did a few hours before the people at Busch Stadium were kind enough to open the doors and allow the public inside to watch the last minutes of the game?
Geography and tradition. A friend of mine who attends UC Berkeley has little connection to the Boston Red Sox other than the fact his grandpa lived in Boston, and raised my friend”s dad to love the Red Sox, so now he does too. Likewise, my friend Brady and his dad attend the Chicago Cubs” spring training session in Arizona every year. Brady doesn”t care about sports, but he sure cares about those Cubs! Entertainment and love of the game. For reasons I don”t understand, people enjoy the thwap! of a ball against a bat. They love the finesse of sliding into home. They love the bulging, plump hot dogs and overpriced sodas. They love the atmosphere, like me. Belonging. They like belonging to a group, a specific club that supports the same goal, loves the same team, fights for the same success.
The Cardinals fans became their own little country Friday night. Nothing else mattered to those people other than the fact the Cardinals reclaimed their title against the Tigers from 1968 (I didn”t know that until I saw a guy with a sign that informed me of that). For some of them, I think you could”ve told them, “Hey man, someone is stealing your car right now,” and they still wouldn”t have left that stadium. I realize now their motives aren”t something to criticize. I may find most sports outrageously boring, but to many people they are an obvious priority, steeped in decades of family tradition and relentless dedication. They are another facet that make us who we are and gives us something to wake up for in the morning. They are American. They are our culture. They are you and me. And that”s something I can”t contest.
Lisa Ruefenacht is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Universe. Her favorite baseball team is the Oakland A”s, but only because she is geographically predisposed to like them (she is an East Bay native).