You might remember, from back at the beginning of the NFL season, when we previewed each team by having a writer we liked write about their favorite team.
Well, we're less than a week away from the start of baseball — spring training is here! — so it's time to do the same thing in the baseball world. Every weekday until the start of the season, a different writer will preview his/her team. We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, Where Their Team Stands. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever.
Today: The St. Louis Cardinals. Your author is Will Leitch.
Like the rest of us, I find that time plays more and more tricks on me as I get older. Years slip by without me realizing it; an event that feels like it just happened turns out to have occurred three years ago. I go months without seeing friends I used to talk to every day, and it doesn't seem like all that long an amount of time. I lose track of basic dates and anniversaries, not because I don't care, but because I can't believe we've come back around to a particular day already. My sister is exactly four-and-a-half years younger than I am; she will turn 27 in two weeks, and, I swear to God, I am absolutely certain I was just 27 myself.
This is normal, and natural. Each time our age notches one more digit, we have more experiences to process, more emotions to catalog, more people who drift in and out of our lives, leaving us uncertain of their meaning, wondering if they were ever there in the first place. I've reached the age where I'm secure in who I am and where I am going; when I'm 36, I'll pretty much be the same guy I am now. Five years isn't going to change me as much as it used to. It's not progression or growth anymore; it's just the odometer, slowly clicking forward. Time completely confuses me, because age is entirely backwards; I lose perspective on how much a singular event affects me as I get older, rather than gain it. Dramatic episodes are easier to deal with in the moment because it feels like they mean less; I've had plenty of them before, and who's to say, at this second, which is more monumental than any of the others. Just more shit that happened; I'm sure there's more coming too. No need to work myself all up about it. The more experiences I have, the less each one matters. It's the absolute worst part of getting older.
But this has not happened with the St. Louis Cardinals' World Series title last year. It happened five months ago today, and it feels like it was exactly five months ago. So much has changed in my life in the last five months. People I thought would still be here are gone, and people I thought I'd never talk to have surfaced. The ground has shifted under my feet, in my personal life, my professional life, my family life. It has been a packed few months. But the Cardinals winning the World Series, physically being there at Busch Stadium with my parents and 50,000 screaming loons wearing bright red ... it's the one thing in my life that hasn't had even the slightest erosion of importance. It feels as powerful right now as it did then.
This is another reason that sports, when sports are at their best and most timeless, are better than real life: They have logical storylines. The first year I started watching baseball, at the age of six, the Cardinals won the World Series. Act One. The next 24 years involved a desperate search for another one, the lean years of Felix Jose, the tragic years of Darryl Kile and Jack Buck, the near-misses of 2002 and 2004. Act Two. And then that freezing night in October, surrounded by the family that has made the Cardinals the organizing principle of its bond, when I found release. Act Three. I searched for victory, and I found it. fin. It's self-contained and logical and beautiful.
The memories of that night are frighteningly vivid. Counting down the outs (I didn't dare start before the sixth inning). Unleashing howls of pain every time someone hit the ball to Chris Duncan. The ninth inning, which, upon watching the game on television for the first time last week, was just as stressful as I recollected. (The tying run was on base!) And then, the final strikeout, and the mayhem. Embracing my parents and yelling as if time was ending right now and I had to unleash all the air my lungs had left. Running through the concourse and high-fiving children, old men, ushers, dogs, beer carts. Text messaging "YAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!" to everybody I knew. Streaming out into the street, hugging anyone I could find.
It happened five months ago today, and it feels exactly like five months. It is a singular event, existing outside time, logic, reason or emotion. It's not that I'll never forget it; it's that its existence sometimes make me wonder if, when all is said and done, and my nicotine addiction has finally caught up with me, it will be the only thing I remember.
Anybody who says the first title just makes you hungrier is full of it. I will root for the Cardinals this year, but yeah: It feels different now that they've finally won one. When he took over as Cardinals manager a decade ago, Tony LaRussa asked for the number 10 on his uniform, because a World Series title would be the Cardinals' 10th. Let's just say he hasn't changed it to 11 this year.
It actually took me a while to warm up to this new season. I kind of wanted Major League Baseball to take a year off; the more days they hold off starting the season, the longer the St. Louis Cardinals remain the current champions, and the longer I can hang onto all that comes with it. I watched the team's lackadaisical, playing-with-house-money offseason with bemused detachment. It was probably wise to avoid the frenzied money virus the rest of baseball caught - do you realize how much money the Cubs paid Jason Marquis? - and this was an offseason when Cardinals fans didn't mind all that much. We were not demanding a big free agent signing; we're still coasting from October. There isn't much pressure on the Cardinals brass right now. Nor should there be. The Cardinals will be as much a part of my life this summer as they always are, but if they end up missing the playoffs, I will be able to pop in my DVD of Game 5, or the NLCS Game 7, and it will help. It will make everything feel better.
And this is the part that worries me: What if it always makes everything feel better? What if, five years from now, the Cardinals are mired in last place, and I'm still staring at my DVDs, flipping through my World Series photo album, gleefully lobotomized, sated by the past? What if the itch I scratched last year never returns? After all, it was a timeless night that ended a storyline; what if there are no more stories? What if the night continues to shine so brightly that it overwhelms all that might come after it?
I don't have the answer to those questions, and, because it has only been five months, I don't really care. The Cardinals are the World Series Champions, and I was there, with the people I love the most. Time won't change that night. Time won't even matter. For once, time loses.
Deadspin's 2006 World Series Coverage [Deadspin]