Friday, October 28, 2011

A Very Special World Series

The St. Louis Cardinals are the 2011 Baseball Champions of the world!  And this baseball crazy town will revel in this amazing series for years to come.  And why not?  Back at the end of August, no one, and I mean no one, expected this team to be anywhere but on the golf course or off fishing somewhere right about now.  But the team, thankfully, didn't listen to all the "experts."

This victory means a great deal to the City of St. Louis and the surrounding area.  It goes far beyond baseball.  Unemployment continues to be high.  Crime in certain parts of the city runs rampant.  Prospects of future economic prosperity seem uncertain at this point.  But this team gave everyone here a bread in all the depressing news of the day.

All of us watched, with skepticism at first, as the Cardinals began to pull things together at the end of August.  Still, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought at that point that the Cardinals would make it to the post season.  Yet, the team kept pounding away steadily at its opponents, winning one series after another and the gap between them and the Atlanta Braves began to shrink.  The Cardinals had to catch Atlanta if they were to enter the playoffs as a wild card.  Even half way through the month that seemed an impossibility.

Yet, as the month progressed, so did the Cardinals until, finally, on a night late in September, the home team beat the Houston Astros and waited to see how the Braves would fare in Atlanta.  If Atlanta won, the Cardinals would head home to clean out their lockers and make plans for a long winter.  If, however, Atlanta lost, the Cardinals would clinch the wild card spot and would continue to play.  With the team and Cardinal Nation on pins and needles, Atlanta extended the game into extra innings, exaggerating the tension even more.  Finally, late that night, Atlanta lost and the Redbirds headed to the post season where, by the way, no one expected them to do anything!  The rest, as they say, is history.

What this team did in the waning days of summer and early days of autumn lifted the spirits of all who followed them.  They helped us to momentarily forget our woes.  Their exploits on the field captivated millions as they boldly marched through the Fall Classic.  Sure, unemployment and crime remained, but at least for a few brief hours of an evening, those things were momentarily pushed into the background.

There was an excitement in the air that you could feel everywhere you went.  Much of the talk was about how they were doing.  Yet, no one dared think that the St. Louis Cardinals, who barely made it into the playoffs, could possibly do the impossible--win the World Series.  But somehow they did and in doing so they have endeared themselves to a hurting community in a very special way.

This is what sports is all about.  Both teams put their best on the field and competed to the best of their ability.  There was no chest thumping on either side, no sniping, no personal affronts to stir up the team and engage the media.  No, this was pure competition and we loved it.

As the year fades and the holidays come upon us, the memories of this year's version of the St. Louis Cardinals will burn brightly during the dreary winter days ahead.  Through sports and the competitive spirit of the 2011 World Series, this community came together for a common purpose.  The Cardinals became ambassadors of a sort, who united groups into one huge cheering section and reveled in a world championship.  This is the stuff of heroes, the ability to bring together widely diverse elements of a community for a common purpose and we thank them for the ride.

Congratulations St. Louis Cardinals.  You have done much more than win a World Series!