Ten years ago, this Dallas girl got married and moved to St. Louis. Though born and raised in Texas, my husband had been working and living in St. Louis for a couple of years and he loved it. We decided this was an ideal place to continue living and hopefully raise a family someday. Besides a few years of college in Indiana, I had lived in Dallas for almost 15 years – a city that is home to “America’s Team.” I grew up in the thick of “Friday Night Lights,” but it wasn’t a TV show or a movie for me, it was my life. One of my four brothers was a very talented high school football player and in Texas, that means driving every Friday night to a game out in the middle of nowhere to cheer on my team and my brother.
As a child, I believed everyone in the world rooted for the Cowboys, I didn’t know any different. Superbowl games were one big party year after year back in the glory days of Aikman and Emmit, when it seemed like the Cowboys couldn’t lose. I have cherished memories of “Bat Night” at Rangers games with my Dad and I vividly remember the moment the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999 when people who didn’t even know each other were hugging and dancing after that remarkable win. And don’t even get me started on the year our Mavericks won the 2011 championship. My husband and I actually cried. We had waited so long. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Texas and their teams and that will never change. My life has sort of revolved around sports, in one way or another and I have always loved that. I understand football plays and basketball stats. I have a competitive spirit and I love a good game – no matter what sport. But baseball was never really a favorite. I enjoyed going to games – the atmosphere of a stadium has always been intoxicating to me, but to be honest I am pretty sure I have never intently watched an entire game of baseball…that is, until I lived here – the home of an 11 time World Series Championship team, second only to the Yankees.
After the first several years of living in the suburbs of St. Louis, I didn’t really get the Cardinal craziness. The fans go all out here. ALL. OUT. I had never seen anything like it – even for the Cowboys. Dying water fountains red, shooting off fireworks after every win and having about 20 yearly “Cardinal spirit wear” days at school and work are normal things here. I can’t rattle off stats or tell you the players batting averages and Ryan and I have attended less than ten Cardinal games in the last ten years of living in St. Louis, so I think my opinion is pretty unbiased.
However, somewhere in the last few years, I became a Cardinal fan. Not just because they are an awesome team, which they are and not because I have served alongside some of the players and know they are the real deal – class act men who practice what they preach, on and off the field – and not just about baseball. The reason I am a Cardinals fan is because this team gave me back the love of the game. In 2011, I started checking baseball scores and paying attention to games with an intensity that brought back feelings of being nine years old again, standing in a baseball stadium for the first time while rooting for the home team with reckless abandon. The city comes together in a way I have never witnessed before. There is a kind of unity that is indescribable. Everything is always awash in a red glow that never fades and a heat that does not dissipate, even after the season is over. It’s a fever that is definitely contagious, regardless of the score. I’ve never seen Card fans boo their guys. Every win and loss is taken personally. The players are talked about like they are part of the family. They can admit if a game was played poorly, but are never disrespectful. The fans are known for their sportsmanship and love of the game. Living here during playoff season is electrifying. It gets into your bones. I guess it has finally found it’s way into mine.
Tonight, during game two of the World Series, I leapt in the air with every Cardinal run. My heart was in my throat when Kozma swiped third base in the 7th inning and I could hardly breathe in the 8th. Since I wasn’t born and raised here, I never really felt much of a loyalty to St. Louis teams. Subconsciously, I guess I still felt like an outsider, even after calling this city my home for ten years. But tonight, I realized that the team I loved was my home team. I love Cardinal baseball. St. Louis is my home and to me, the Cardinals are America’s Team.
But then again, what do I know? I’m just a Texas girl living in Cardinal Nation…