Friday, August 22, 2008
St. Louis baseball fans
I've now seen major league baseball games in 17 ballparks in 14 cities, and can say without a doubt that the best fans are in St. Louis. (The best ballpark, btw, is San Francisco's AT&T Park. You can't beat the views, the experience, and vibe, and the fans are good too.)
The St. Louis fan experience starts before the fan even arrives at the park - everybody, from the youngest to the oldest fan dons some Cardinals apparel. Old fans wear Musial jerseys while teenage girls wear cut-off Rick Ankiel t-shirts. It really is amazing, even though I generally disagree that good fans dress up for their team. Still, when you look around the stadium, you generally only see two colors - cardinal red, and white.
The Cardinal dress code also shows that these fans are thinking about today's game from the moment their feet hit the floor in the morning.
You can feel this anticipation build in the hours leading up to the game. During the day, I overheard repeated references to the game, and was surprised when, for example, a woman behind a checkout register starting talking to a customer about that night's game against Pittsburgh. I also heard plenty of folks talking about the game while touring the Gateway Arch an hour and a half before game time.
Once in the stadium though, Cards fans excel. They're smart, cheering small things in nearly every at-bat, like a ground-out to advance a runner. You can also hear a nuanced appreciation for strategy, though their reaction is always positive and pro-Cardinal. I didn't hear any boos all night - imagine that in Philly (my hometown, btw.)
I also got the impression from the Cards fans that their first priority int he Stadium was the game itself. Sure, they ate and drank, bought souvenirs, and took their kids to the stadium playground, but I got the feeling a much higher percentage of fans never really left their seats during the game.
Oh, and as referenced before, all St. Louisans that I met were exceedingly polite. Even when I heard one St. Louis fan say something to a rival Chicago Cubs fans, all he said was "sheesh!" and shook his head no. I imagine that same conversation would involve several exchanges of curses, along with instructions about what to do with oneself.
Speaking of the rivalry, I'll be at a Cubs game tomorrow at Wrigley - a new experience for me that I am really looking forward to. I'll be looking to see if the Cub fans can take the crown of best fans from St. Louis fans, yet another way that these two rivals compete, but I suspect that baseball heaven is set in Busch Stadium.
Uncommon Man's Creed
"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous