Being a fan takes more than just rooting on your team. You need to build up a considerable amount of distaste for your team’s rival, its nemesis – and sometimes for the team whose success is stealing away fans who should be supporting your club.
This area should be the domain of the Kansas City Royals but for every blue cap you see there is another one or maybe two that are St. Louis Cardinals red. There are some logical reasons why “baseball” means “Cardinals” in much of west central Missouri:
• The Cardinals franchise has been around since Chester Arthur was in the White House, while the Royals emerged during the Nixon administration.
• St. Louis owns 11 world championships, while Kansas City has one (and we all know everybody loves a winner – Cardinals fans are remarkably good at providing this reminder).
• According to the book “American History Through American Sports” by Danielle Sarver Coombs and Bob Batchelor: “The St. Louis Cardinals used radio to build a base of fans that spread across vast distances in the West and South where baseball teams had not been established. … The power of those broadcasts was so pervasive and far-reaching that from (the 1926 World Series) on, St. Louis and a far-flung region of the South and West became Cardinals fans.”
I don’t have a dog in this fight, but my experience is in line with what Royals fans go through. My family was all Chicago Cubs fans. The Cubs were on WGN TV and radio every day, so it was easy to be a fan despite the franchise’s monumental run of ineptitude. I am a White Sox fan; it is my sports futility badge of courage, but with pride I can always say I was not one of those “Wait ‘til next year” mopes.
The past couple of years, the Royals have emerged as a top-flight team. If not for the ridiculous performance of San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner (Hear that? It’s the sound of thousands of Royals fans screaming.), KC likely would have the 2014 World Series trophy on display next to the one it captured in 1985. Yet for all of the Royals’ recent success, KC fans feel they and their team don’t get the respect they deserve from Cardinals fans. And Cardinals fans? They seem passively amused by the Royals and their suddenly proud legion of fans.
I tossed this grenade out on my Facebook page: Are you a Cardinals fan who finds Royals fans’ new arrogance annoying? Are you a Royals fan who is sick of Cardinals fans’ entitlement mentality? What really bugs you about fans of Missouri’s “other” team?
Yeah, I know – poke a bear with a stick.
The responses were entertaining and enlightening. Longtime Cardinals fan Roger Hooker wrote, “I guess if I thought about the Royals, I’d (probably) be amazed at how many bandwagon fans they have gained in the last two years. But I don’t.” Sherry Jo Painter-Torres, who shared a photo of her in a Royals hat at a game in 1977, replied: “I’m sick of those arrogant Cards fans that like to throw it in our faces the number of World Series rings they have. Haven’t they figured out its just jewelry?”
But in sports, the ring’s the thing.
Some folks said they are glad both teams are having success. Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way for me – pick a side and root against the other. That’s not disrespect, that’s being fanatical (the root word for “fan”) about your team. You don’t have to be hateful, but you need to stick by your team through good and bad.
My favorite story came from Sarah Nail, who was raised a Royals fan but now is a member of the Cardinals faithful.
“I remember summer nights as a kid listening to the Royals on the radio,” Nail wrote. “Then, I married die-hard, life-long Cardinals fan, David Meyer. Never really considered myself a fan of the game of baseball until I started watching the Cardinals, which is a team I truly love to watch play. While I do love the talent of the team, I also appreciate that the players appear to be great guys with a sense of community.”
Royals fan Michael Pettis just wants people to pick a team and stick with it.
“The worst is ‘Cardinal fans’ who bashed the Royals for so many years while living here and near KC,” Pettis wrote. “Then once the Royals do well, they all of a sudden have been Royals fans their whole lives. … When I’m at a game this year and a group of guys around my age are decked out in Royals gear and asking each other who the Royals center fielder is, it enraged me.”
Nail believes the noise is coming from the extremes from both teams.
“Are there arrogant Cardinals fans? Sure, you bet. Are there bandwagon Royals fans who can be jerks too? Yep. Do these folks make up the majority of the fandom for either team? Maybe I’m being a Pollyanna, but I’d like to hope not,” she wrote.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.