A letter of sympathy to Cardinals fans
Dear Cardinals fans,
We’re very alike, you and I. Just as your hearts bleed for the Cardinals, my veins throb and pulse to the Bronx Bomber beat. We cheer for the two teams with the most World Series titles, we consider a failure every season that does not end with champagne celebrations and diamond rings and, most relevantly, we just suffered torturous playoff losses—my beloved Yankees in a four-game sweep, your majestic Redbirds in a collapse.
But fear not. The silver lining of the Yankees’ early elimination is that I have had nearly a week to recover from witnessing the droves of pinstriped batters flailing at so many sliders in the dirt that they would have found a shovel more useful than a bat. In that time, I have traversed Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief and emerged cleansed of the 2012 Yankee stench, ready for next season.
Based on my experience, I’ve decided to give some tips to help ease your pain as you descend into post-defeat bitterness. Because as my editor so astutely pointed out when I pitched this story idea to him, nothing says “I know what suffering is” like being a Yankees fan.
Stage 1: Denial
The Cardinals seemed magical, didn’t they? After the World Series comeback last year, the umpire-aided win in Atlanta and the refusal to make the final out in Washington, it certainly seemed as if the Cardinals would never lose again. And even though a Little League team could’ve recorded the final out of game seven without giving up the nine runs you needed to tie, you must’ve felt that a little pinch of pixie dust was left.
Sorry, but you were stuck in denial. Matt Holliday hit a measly popup to second and the series was over. On to step two, where the real fun begins.
Stage 2: Anger
In this step, you must overreact wildly and irrationally. How could the Cardinals score only one run total in the final three games? The whole offense stinks! Trade them all, small sample size be darned. Manager Mike Matheny pitched Joe Kelly, who put up no resistance as the Giants hammered the final nails in the Cardinals’ coffin? Who cares if Matheny displayed a deft ability to manage the pitching staff and clubhouse for the whole season. Run him out of town!
I know St. Louis fans pride themselves on their politeness and knowledge of the game, but you just coughed up a 3-1 series lead. Take a step from the New York playbook, and for the next 24 hours, criticize anyone and everyone associated with the team. I guarantee you’ll feel better.
Stage 3: Bargaining
All right, so maybe the actions prescribed in step two were fairly irrational. Not everyone on the team should be replaced with Royals’ Triple-A farmhands. But someone needs to be blamed for such an ignominious defeat. The New York media actually jumped the gun on this one, making Alex Rodriguez a scapegoat before the series had even ended because of his penchant for striking out instead of scoring (both with fastballs and Australian bikini models—zing!).
As for you, the Cardinals failed so spectacularly in all facets of the game—hitting, pitching and fielding—that you have many possible targets to bear the brunt of the blame for the series defeat. Maybe you’ll go with Allen Craig and Matt Holliday, who couldn’t make solid contact with a piñata at this point, or maybe you’ll consider Kyle Lohse, whose game seven repertoire was much like Charlie Brown’s: a curveball that didn’t curve, a sinker that didn’t sink and a fastball that wasn’t fast.
Suffice it to say, you have many options for this step in the coping process.
Step 4: Depression
Is rooting for the Cardinals worth it, you might find yourself asking at this stage. Is cheering worth the stomach-deflating despondence of a rally-killing double play, the shattered remains of the remote control you hurled against the wall, the all-encompassing nihilism that accompanies playoff elimination?
It might seem bleak now but perk up. Things could be worse. You could be a Cubs fan.
Stage 5: Acceptance
And after all that, there’s the fallback line: there’s always next year, replete with the annual Opening Day optimism and corresponding hope for a year better than the last. And your third baseman is still a productive batsman whereas mine was relegated to playing left bench against the Tigers. (Either that or he was the highest-paid cheerleader in history. Yes, I’m still a little bitter.)