Howard Megdal of Sports On Earth took a look into the environment in St. Louis and why the fans really are a different breed. The beginning of that article follows. Please take the time to click the link at the bottom and read the rest of the piece at the original site.
On Saturday night in St. Louis, Game 3 of the World Series will begin with the essential definition of the Cardinals largely determined by public opinion. They are a model organization which has produced, as measured by most metrics, oodles of talent. No one is really arguing this.
How Cardinals fans are regarded, though, has become one of the key battles of this postseason. On our site, Will Leitch has battled for them valiantly — but Will is one of them, thus his arguments are rapidly dismissed by many, in the same way no anthropologist would be taken at face value about his own people.
Rany Jazayerli spoke for many on my Twitter feed, anyway, when he wrote this in Grantland: “Believe me, I get it. I understand why Cardinals fans have become as loathed as any supporters in baseball. I’m as tired as anyone of their golly-gee-whiz-we-just-can’t-help-being-great-fans shtick, and I’m as exasperated as anyone that their shtick actually works. Players buy into the Best Fans in Baseball canard so much that they want to play in St. Louis because of it.”
I’m a really big Rany fan, and at least he put forward an argument. I’ve seen too many people, normally lucid, just declaring that they hate the Cardinals and their fans, and they can’t even say why.
But let’s look at Rany’s case. To accept it, we really have to work hard to separate perception from reality, and I’m just not sure we can. I’ve been to St. Louis several times this year for Sports on Earth, and several times over the past few years as well. The idea that Cardinals fans are different doesn’t seem very odd to me. The Cardinals, to this anecdotal observer, seem to mean more to more people than other teams do in other cities.
Are there great fans everywhere, even among maligned fan bases in Tampa Bay and Miami? There sure are. If a fan maintains what we might call “the Cardinals fan ideal” for a team that makes fans really suffer, is that fan more impressive, individually, than the mass of fans who stick with the Cardinals through thick and slightly less thick? Probably.
I think some people take the idea that St. Louis is a better overall fan experience personally, as some kind of referendum on their own fanaticism about their own team. But it isn’t. We’re trying to get at two key ideas here, “different” and “more,” and both in the aggregate.
Let me tell you how often I am chatted up about the Cardinals in St. Louis: all the time, almost everywhere. I don’t mean once I tell someone what I do for a living. I mean, my shuttle driver from the airport, first thing, asked me if I had “Cardinals fever” last week. When I checked in at the hotel earlier this season and mentioned I’d be returning in October, the woman at the desk said to me, “Better book now, the playoffs are coming here. I hope so, anyway.” Not in a bragging way; just in a matter-of-fact way, that the Cardinals are important, and they are omnipresent.