Archive for May, 2012
I thought I’d start today by combining #SportsWeek with #WaybackWednesday in one picture. Here’s a picture of a little Captain back in my soccer star days in the 1980s.
This would’ve been around ’86-’87 back when I played soccer in the Khoury league down on Missouri Bottom Road. Despite my love of the Cardinals at that age, my favorite game to play was soccer. And as is typical with most kids, I lost interest in soccer within a few years. Which brings up the question I want to discuss today for #SportsWeek. Why are only a few specific sports popular in St. Louis?
It’s well known that St. Louis is a baseball town. And while hockey will never be as popular as baseball, it still has a pretty sizeable following here. Both are by far the most popular sports in St. Louis. The rest are a real mixed bag.
The popularity of football is heavily dependent on the performance of the local teams. I remember going to a football Cardinals game at Busch Stadium back in the 1980s and seeing a lot of empty seats. After little support for losing teams the Cardinals left town and St. Louis stopped giving a shit about football for a decade until the miracle Rams won the Superbowl in 1999. Suddenly the Rams were the hottest ticket in town for the next several years until they returned to last place. Around that time there was a little excitement about the Missouri Tigers, but that has evaporated when Chase Daniels graduated. And while currently there is not much support for football, I think one playoff run by the Rams would bring a lot of enthusiasm back to football in St. Louis.
The sport that is glaringly absent from St. Louis is basketball. I can only remember two times when basketball was a story in St. Louis. In the early 1990s SLU basketball was pretty popular during the Spoonball years. And last decade the Missouri Tigers were big the two times they made it to the Elite Eight. But that’s about it in my lifetime. And after the Tigers epic choke in the first round of March Madness this year, I just don’t ever see basketball being popular again in St. Louis.
The most surprisingly unpopular sport in St. Louis is NASCAR. For a town with plenty of rednecks St. Louis has never developed a sizable NASCAR following. While I still see plenty of NASCAR decals on pickup trucks around town, I rarely hear anyone talking about it. I’m sure the lack of a qualifying track nearby is a big part of this, but even if there was a track in St. Louis I don’t think it would be successful. It’s another reminder that St. Louis is not part of the South no matter what Jefferson County says.
Tennis has been somewhat popular in St. Louis for most of my life, and I have no idea why. But I can always remember watching people I knew playing the game and to watching the major tournaments. The opposite is true of golf. While I do know a few people that play golf, I’ve never really heard people talk much about the PGA. Like NASCAR, I’m sure that the lack of a local course where national players can compete is a big part of disinterest. But once again, I don’t think St. Louis would support a PGA tournament here.
Which brings me back to soccer. While soccer is not hugely popular in St. Louis, I think it has more to do with lack of legitimate options. When I was a kid, soccer was quite popular in St. Louis thanks to the St. Louis Steamers. Even after that team folded, local interest still remained high. I remember a lot of buzz in St. Louis when World Cup came to Chicago in 1996. Since then I think that the interest in soccer has been simmering in St. Louis due to lack of options. The U.S. Olympic teams have been pretty popular, and World Cup support is always surprisingly high in St. Louis. But there is a general lack interested in MLS despite the effort to bring a team here a few years back. Building a stadium in Illinois was probably part of that, but some of it I think was due to the confidence in MLS. Or to put it another way, if soccer ever captures the national interest for a sustained period of time, I think St. Louis would be one of the first towns on the bandwagon. But until then soccer in St. Louis will remain something loved by children and parents.
I’m sure that at least one of my opinions is wrong or at least easily debatable, so feel free to correct me.
While I was watching Wrestlemania last month for the first time in a decade, I remembered what I used to love so much about the WWE. Pro Wrestling spells out who the good guys and bad guys are in every match and then let’s me decide which side I chose to cheer. Most “real” sports do not give me this clear of a choice but I wish they did. So instead I’ve found myself creating these choices by designating any given sports team as either the Overpaid or the Underdog. This has made my sports watching infinitely more enjoyable as of late.
As I’ve said many times before, St. Louis sports teams only win as Underdogs. The Cardinals were Underdogs when they won the World Series in 2006 & 2011, and but lost in 2004 because Boston was the Underdog. Same with the Rams. They won the Superbowl in 1999 as Underdogs and then lost in 2002 because Boston was the Underdog. Even though the Cardinals are the defending champions they’ve managed to keep an Underdog status in 2012. Everyone outside of St. Louis discounted the Cardinals chances this year for numerous reasons: Losing Pujols & LaRussa, aging players prone to injury, the difficulty of winning the World Series back to back, etc. I for one was glad the Redbirds were labeled as Underdogs yet again. I think it gives the Cardinals a real chance to make it back to the World Series.
On the flip side, I usually love to cheer against the Overpaid. The Yankees are the perennial Overpaid team and I’ve always enjoyed cheering against them for that reason. But then again being overpaid doesn’t guarantee I will cheer against a team. The Phillies and the Heat are both good examples of Overpaid teams I like, just as the Royals and the Blackhawks are Underdog teams that I dislike. The point here being that by labeling a team Overpaid or Underdog doesn’t mean I prefer one, it just makes it easier to decide whether I’m cheering for the good guys or the bad guys.
This was the lens that I used to look at day two of #SportsWeek and it made for some interesting observations:
The twin towers of the Overpaid, the Yankees and the Red Sox, both stared out today with a .500 record and tied for last place in the AL East. They have the 1st and 3rd highest payrolls in baseball and they still suck. As Nelson would say
The Overpaid Heat beat the Underdog Pacers to win their playoff series. I’ve been cheering for the Miami since they won a Championship five days after I moved to Florida, back when they were Underdogs. But they have been clearly Overpaid ever since King James took his talents to South Beach, and I’ve cheered for them even more since. I’ve always like LeBron as a player, but I never liked the Underdog teams he played for in Cleveland. Moving to Miami made him embrace being the bad guy, and it’s been entertaining to watch. And these badguys took a 3-2 lead last nite over the loveable Underdog Pacers much to my delight.
The best story of the day was Underdog Adam Wainwright pitching a four hit shutout against the Padres. Adam has been an Underdog for a couple of years now, ever since he came in 2nd for the CY Young in 2009 when he clearly should’ve won. Losing all of 2011 to injury and missing a chance at another World Series ring was a real shame, and he started the year as tough luck Underdog trying to regain his form. It’s been mostly tough to watch Adam pitch this year, especially his awful performance on Opening Day in St. Louis. Watching him dominate a soft hitting team like the Padres was a real treat for nine innings this evening. He struck out nine batters and impressively never threw more than fifteen pitches in any inning. He made a one run lead last through seven innings before the offense gave him enough breathing room to finish out the game and let the bullpen get some needed rest. As they say around these parts, Waino was Bueno.
And finally, this year’s poster boy for the Overpaid, Albert Pujols, hit his fourth homerun of the year and the Angels won 5-0. Watching Pujols struggle and get heckled as being Overpaid has been extremely amusing this year. This transformation has turned him back into a player I enjoy watching again. When Pujols first came up with the Cardinals, he was a great Underdog. He was stuck playing right field when the Cardinals signed ultra Overpaid Tino Martinez to play first base despite winning Rookie of the Year. Pujols stayed the Underdog when he kept losing out for the MVP vote to the clearly juicing Barry Bonds. But right around the time he started winning MVP awards he started giving off the self-righteous vibe that makes it hard be an Underdog. After he won a World Series ring in 2006, he spent the next five years as the smug superstar. He wanted it to be known that he was the best, and that he was above the rest of this bullshit. His move to California was all about finally being paid the most to be the best, which has made his early struggles so interesting to watch. All the Angels fans and players had this reaction to paying someone a quarter of a billion dollars to hit under .200
Whereas the rest of the nation felt little sympathy for the Overpaid Superstar and his struggles. As my sister would say
But for me, I’m glad to see Pujols as Overpaid. I think his pompous, holier-than-thou demeanor makes Albert a great bad guy. In Pro Wrestling they call that move the heel turn, and I think it’s perfectly describes the Pujols situation. And now that he’s the bad guy, I’m ready to cheer for him again. So here’s hoping the bad man on the team of Angels keeps giving the fans something to hate.
As the video said, today begins #SportsWeek here at Captains Quarters. Let’s jump right in!
Rough weekend for the Cardinals. I watched the games on Friday and Sunday nite, and they both made me angry. I glad the Redbirds were able to score some runs, but the bullpen pitching was hard to watch. Losing a couple of games 5-6 was not fun, but way better than 0-6 on Saturday nite. Glad I didn’t watch that one. About the only thing that was interesting to watch was the debut of Matt Adams. That kid looks like he knows how to swing the bat.
The worst was obviously the injury to Lance Berkman. They said today that he didn’t tear his ACL, but that he will still be out at least six weeks. Major blow to the Cardinals and to one of my favorite current members. Big Puma is an easily likeable guy, and I’m sure the clubhouse will miss his presence. I get the feeling that he might be done for the season. I’m just not sure he’ll have the motivation to push himself hard after winning a ring last year. I hope to see him again wearing the birds on the bat, but the odds may be against him.
Happy to hear that Ballpark Village finally was able to secure funding to begin construction on Phase 1. Not much information is available yet on what Phase 1 will look like or how the Cardinals were able to secure funding after so many problems in the past. But given the many miss-starts so far, I get the feeling that they wouldn’t make an announcement like this unless Phase 1 was much more certain than before. Still, at least the picture looks pretty.
Interesting to read the reports coming out of Rams mini-camp. With such a large number of draftees and unsigned draftees headed to training this year, I’m actually interested to see how the Rams handle the situation. I respect the honesty of new head coach Jeff Fischer’s approach. He realizes that there are many problem areas that need fixing before this team starts winning again. Fixing the defensive line was a great first step, but many more are needed before the Rams return to contention. I don’t mind a rebuilding year as long as the effort is serious and results are positive.
Tonite’s Cardinals game was a real mess, but it was actually fun to watch. The local broadcast on Fox Sports Midwest lost its audio about an hour into the game and never got it back for reasons unknown. They showed a silent game for about half an hour before the booth said screw it and piped in the Padres broadcast instead. It was actually pretty cool to hear the San Diego announcers call the game instead of the local chuckleheads. Eventually Rick Horton came over to the visitors’ booth and called the rest of the game with the Padres announcers, which made for some amusing conversations. And the obvious bonus was no commercials between innings. Listening to the three announcers trying to kill some time unexpectedly was unintentionally funny. The problem started out making the game feel pretty Busch League, it wound up pretty enjoyable in the end. And most unexpected was the comeback in the bottom of the 8th off the bat of Tyler Greene. The kid usually looks awful at the plate, so it was surprising to see him with three hits including the game winning 2 run homer. Lousy game, great result.
And now it’s time for bed. Check back tomorrow for more #SportsWeek
I was planning on writing one last regular post today before Sports Week commences next Monday. And then the Cardinals went and demanded my attention. This morning my Facebook wall lit up with pictures from the Cardinals Tuxedo Travel Day. As you can see here
the players decided to have some fun by dressing in goofy tuxedos for their trip from San Francisco To Los Angeles. Hilarious idea with some wonderful pictures that demands a #Friday5 post.
Top 5 Styles From Cardinals Tuxedo Travel Day
1. Tyler Greene-Man
The best by far was rookie Tyler Greene’s full body spandex tux, ala Green Man. Brilliant.
2. Kyle “Lloyd” Lohse
The Dumb and Dumber tux was kind of a gimme, but Kyle really pulled it off.
3. Pee Wee Carpenter
Matt may be my second favorite Carpenter on the team, but he’s #1 when it comes to his Mr. Herman impression.
4. Jake Key West-Brook
I’ve always been a fan of the white tuxedo since I wore one to prom 17 years ago this month. Jake added a floral vest and bowtie to really nail this outfit. He looks ready for cocktails the beach.
5. Kyle McClellan, Prom Chaperone
Kyle went with a mostly toned down tux, except for those wonderful tails. I like to imagine that this is what would look like if he were to chaperone prom at our high school.
Actually, I wonder if his older brother, and my classmate, Matt McClellan actually did chaperone prom at Hazelwood West this year. Crazy!
Memorial Day is fast approaching and I’m super excited. This year my second favorite baseball team is coming to St. Louis to play four games against my favorite team. The Cardinals-Phillies series is a like a holiday for me every year, and it’s actually on a holiday weekend in 2012. Jackpot!
I have some big things cooking for this Cardinals-Phillies series this year, some of which I’m not at liberty to discuss yet. Here’s what I can divulge. Starting Monday I’ll be devoting a full week to sports here at Captains Quarters. Sports Week will culminate in my first ever live-blogging event on Saturday nite , May 26th, for the Cardinals-Phillies game. Live-Blog!
I have some other great ideas lined up for sports week as well as the very interesting backstory in the weeks ahead. But for now I’ll just advise you to strap on a helmet, because it’s about to get physical here at Captains Quarters.