(A note: I was in the air for most of Wednesday, and this was written prior to the Brewers’ game against the Cardinals. Unless something really odd happened today, though, everything said applies)
Our perceptions of the world tend to be painted by the groups and communities we interact with most. Whether it’s politics, religion, or even, yes, sports, if we stay within one group for long enough, we start to lose touch with what the rest of the world sees.
If the city of Madison is “78 square miles surrounded by reality,” then perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised if the group of people I take in games with – be it in person or online – resides in its own sequestered area of cyberspace surrounded by reality. So I will keep that in mind as I attempt to formulate my opinions on the reputations of both teams; hopefully the reader, regardless of his position, will do so as well.
The Brewers are by no means the darlings of the MLB, nor should we expect them to be. Ryan Braun could be replaced by Jersey Shore’s “The Situation” and I might not notice. Prince Fielder orchestrated the flashiest home run celebration in the game’s history. Nyjer Morgan’s antics have drawn more laughter than anger this season, but it’s been less than a year since Tony Plush was starting bench clearing brawls instead of impersonating Bryant Gumbel in post-game interviews.
For better or for worse, this is the face of the Milwaukee Brewers. But personally, I fail to see the harm in this team’s actions, from Fielder’s earthquake celebration to Morgan’s craziness and especially back to Mike Cameron’s ritual of untucking the jerseys after a victory that angered the Cardinals so damn much. This is a team with personality, and losing to teams with personality sucks. Personality manifests it so much more in a victory than in the subdued environment surrounding a loss. Just ask Telly Hughes.
For some reason or another, St. Louis is referred to as baseball heaven. I’ve never been there. I’m sure it’s fantastic. And there’s no doubt the Cardinals have a storied history as a franchise. Over 111 years, the franchise has recorded 10 championships, 17 pennants, and 23 postseason appearances. And their fans, well, their fans are supposedly the best in the game.
But is the view of St. Louis baseball on a pedestal, staring down it’s metaphorical nose at the rest of the league shared by anybody besides Joe Buck? If it is, I would certainly question those who still hold this belief after Tuesday night’s farce in Milwaukee, a game which saw a St. Louis team retaliate for nothing and Milwaukee remain calm as their star was the brunt of this false retribution, and a game which saw one of the game’s worst blowups by the catcher of a supposedly classy St. Louis team.
This isn’t about the city of St. Louis or its fans at all. Each and every major league city has its bright spots and its blemishes, and each city has its share of great fans and lousy fans. No, in the end this is about Tony La Russa, a man who seems to be on a mission to irritate and anger fans everywhere. A man with a list of complaints longer than Prince Fielder’s waistline. A man who can’t handle when an announcer calls him out for being “bush league.”
Yes, Tony La Russa has won 2,696 more games as a Major League Baseball manager than I ever will, and counting. No, that doesn’t speak a word about his character.
Rarely in sport do I ever see the game on the field in the way of Hawk Harrelson, as “good guys” versus “bad guys.” Baseball players are hardly role models, and I’m certain that some of the players on the field for the Milwaukee Brewers are douchebags. When they’re on the field, though, they’re our douchebags, and the same goes for those wearing Cardinal Red for the denizens of St. Louis.
And I suppose it would be taking things far too seriously to characterize Tony La Russa as a “villain,” as a truly “bad guy.” But never have I encountered a figure who could take the fun and enjoyment out of the game so swiftly as La Russa. When it comes to the baseball diamond, that’s as close as somebody can get to actual evil, short of commanding a pitcher to throw at a guy’s head at least.
Maybe it’s just my perspective, but the playful antics of the Prince Fielder-era Milwaukee Brewers and the irritating, abrasive, and aggressive actions of Tony La Russa’s St. Louis Cardinals (or Oakland Athletics or Chicago White Sox, it hardly matters) are hardly comparable. But maybe that’s just because I live in my own world, sequestered from reality. If so, much like Madison, I never want to leave.