A baseball town bleeding blue

Evan Glantz

Evan Glantz

St. Louis has been, is, and always will be a baseball town. From the moment pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in mid-February, through the final game of the season – either in late September or (typically) October, rooting for the Cardinals is nearly a year-round privilege. The city is synonymous with its baseball team. But this spring, it’s been our town’s team on the ice – not the diamond – that has been garnering all the headlines.

The Blues have always had a loyal fanbase in St. Louis, even while lacking the championship cache of the Cardinals. Since joining the NHL in 1967, the organization and its fans have patiently (torturously?) been waiting for the opportunity to lift the Stanley Cup. Decades of playoff appearances – including a 25-year streak from 1980 through 2004 – have always resulted in disappointment and heartbreak.

But this season, the Blues knocked off their rival and defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks in a thrilling seven-game series, and took down the Dallas Stars, this season’s President’s Trophy winner, in another seven games. Now, against the San Jose Sharks, the team stands two wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup Finals for only the fourth time in team history – and the first since 1970.

During their postseason run, the Blues have done what was seemingly impossible: they have turned people’s attention from baseball to hockey. Opening Day is always treated like a holiday in St. Louis, and spring and summer, even most of fall, is dedicated to the Cardinals. But here we are, approaching Memorial Day weekend, and the whole town is Bleeding Blue.

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As Cardinals fans, we have become spoiled. We take for granted that the Redbirds will make the postseason and compete for a World Series. From 2000 through 2015, they made the playoffs 12 times in 16 years. Only once in that time span did they have a record under .500. That could explain why we see their current 23-21 record and third place standing (seven games behind the Chicago Cubs), and think the sky is falling.

Our only expectation for the Blues, on the other hand, has been disappointment. Regular season success followed by first round exits in each of the past two years have created skepticism. “Prove it” seemed to be the general mindset from fans to the team. To the Blues’ credit this year, they have.

The Cardinals’ continued success, in addition to talk of “The Cardinal Way,” has worn thin on most fans outside of Redbird Nation. No one likes a winner.

But people do enjoy an underdog. They enjoy a good story of a tortured franchise and its fans finally on the cusp of breaking through. Enter the Blues. Just like the Kansas City Royals in 2014 and 2015, they have created excitement locally and nationally and given St. Louis something we haven’t experienced in awhile: unexpected success.

The sports landscape in St. Louis has shifted greatly in 2016, most notably with the Rams leaving the ‘Lou for LA. Fortunately, we’ve got the Birds and the Blues, with the latter team providing a new source of pride for the city, and a touchstone around which all of St. Louis can rally.