Part of being a fan, I hate to say, is building up a certain amount of hate for the other team/guy/opponent.
As a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, I have a strong dislike for the Chicago Cubs. I find the Milwaukee
Brewers deplorable. I believe the Cincinnati Reds have something to do with all of the evil in this world and I have no trouble voicing my disdain for every other baseball team.
But I don’t hate the Pittsburgh Pirates. And that bothers me, because the Cardinals are fighting the Pirates in the National League Divisional Series. That series is tied 2-2 with the deciding Game 5 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Wednesday night.
Don’t get me wrong here. I want the Cardinals to win and will be out of sorts until spring training if they don’t pull this one out. I feel pretty good with ace Adam Wainwright on the mound against Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole. But Cole was outstanding in his Game 2 start against the Cardinals, so there are no guarantees.
The biggest issue I have, though, is that I can’t villainize the Pirates, let alone demonize them. I’ve been trying all season long to develop a healthy amount of dislike for Pittsburgh, but it’s difficult. And I don’t know why.
I was irritated by the fans at PNC Park in Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4, many of whom I doubt could name the Pirates’ infield starters from 1993. That’s my criteria for being a fan of a baseball team, by the way. If you’re old enough, you have to be able to name the starting infield from 20 years ago. If you can’t, you have no right to claim you’re a fan.
There are a few Pirates players I’m not crazy about, starting with right fielder Marlon Byrd. And third baseman Pedro Alvarez bothers me; perhaps that’s because he has hit the Cardinals like he’s owned them for the past couple of seasons.
But how does one go about hating Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen? I just can’t get that worked up about catcher Russell Martin or second baseman Neil Walker. First baseman Justin Morneau, acquired from the Minnesota Twins at the trade deadline, seems like a swell guy.
OK, what about the pitching staff. I usually find it easy to hate on opposing pitchers. They are, after all, trying to get my guys out. How dare they? What a bunch of jerks.
Except in the Pirates’ case, there don’t seem to be any jerks. Left-hander Francisco Liriano is a guy I wish the Cardinals had. Oh, I do not like reliever Mark Melancon. So there’s that. I’m not sure why I don’t like him. I think it probably has something to do with the time he spent with the Houston Astros previously.
So what I’m encountering is watching my team try to beat a team that I want to hate, but can’t. I have a couple of Pirates fans as friends, including Wichita Eagle assistant sports editor Tom Seals and KNSS radio personality Ted Woodward. They’re nice people, beaten down I’m sure by 20 years of losing. Neither has gloated this season as the Pirates won the season series against the Cardinals and perched themselves atop the NL Central for much of the year.
I even went to PNC Park with my wife a couple of years ago and enjoyed the experience. Pirates fans were gracious. Nice, even.
If the Cardinals are fortunate enough to win this series against Pittsburgh, I have no problem hating the Los Angeles Dodgers. In fact, I hate them very much. Magic Johnson? Please. Go find a basketball. Zack Greinke? Hate, hate, hate.
But I’m struggling to detest the Pirates and it bothers me. It’s usually a no-brainer to hate the opposing team’s manager, but Clint Hurdle doesn’t bother me. Yeah, he chomps on that gum a bit too much and a bit too hard, but that’s not a character flaw I can really sink my teeth into.
Maybe something will trigger inside me before Game 5 on Wednesday night. I can only hope.