When it comes to issues involving political parties or religious denominations, I feel no need to pick a side or join a team. This tendency wisely keeps my money away from collection plates and political campaigns, so I can spend it on consequential matters like my bar tabs. Less importantly, it also allows me to judge individuals by their own merits rather than simply by what side of the fence they are on or how they choose to label themselves.

The only area of great interest in my life in which I can’t seem to go without picking a team is Major League Baseball. To me, there’s the St. Louis Cardinals and there’s everyone else. That is how I was raised and it is the lens through which I view everything related to baseball.

The Cardinals have rewarded my loyalty with a steady string of success in recent years, consistently producing interesting players and winning 10 National League Championships in the last 19 years. These spoils of victory sometimes make me feel conflicted about maintaining my steady Cardinal fandom because of my usual tendency to root for the underdog and stand up for the little guy.

I don’t like to see people get picked on by bullies and try to do what I can to shine a spotlight on it and put a stop to it. However, the Cardinals often come across like big bullies who just beat up on the smaller and less significant teams in the league. Watching them repeatedly administer those kinds of beatings is not always fun.

This week, rooting for the Cardinals became even more difficult for me with the revelation that some members of that organization have been accused by the FBI of hacking into one of their former employee’s computer database to gain information on another team.  

To be fair, it’s impossible to say who did what at this point. This is just an investigation and no one has actually been charged with anything yet. Still, the Cardinals have long been touted as being a well-run organization that does things the right way, with integrity and strength of character. I remember my father explaining this to me as what sets the Cardinals apart from all other professional sports teams.

This gets severely tainted if any of the higher-ups in the organization were actually involved in some type of blatant cheating or dishonesty. Maybe we were suckers to believe that our team was so much better and different than other big money-making operations we have to deal with every day – the governor’s office, the local utilities, fast food restaurants, and Wal-Mart. It is probably slightly ridiculous to assume that these entities care about anything other than the bottom line, or that they are unwilling to do whatever it takes to achieve that. Maybe that’s the more realistic lesson that fathers should have been teaching their sons about the Cardinals all along.

Now the media will try to make some of these hard-fought Cardinal wins the last couple of years look illegitimate, people will be fired from the organization just to save face, and post-game press conferences with the manager and general manager will be about as much fun to sit through as a Neosho County Commission meeting. The friends who I get together to play board games with, who already give me crap about being a Cardinal fan, are now starting to accuse me of hacking into their computers to gain unfair advantage.

If the Cardinals are truly the same as every other baseball team and if all the rhetoric about the “Cardinal way” was just some cheap gimmick to sell tickets and fool me into watching games on television, maybe I should consider dumping them and finding another team to follow. This would be a convenient time in my life to do that since I live in a geographic area that seems to be dominated by another Major League organization that is doing pretty well in the standings at the moment. Maybe I should start rooting for the Royals. With the Royals, I could experience the constant thrill of watching my favorite players get traded to other teams once they demand higher salaries, the joy of dealing with a fan-base that seem to care more about packing the All-Star game than doing well in the post-season, and the euphoria that would go along with being in the playoffs once every 30 years or so.

On second thought, maybe rooting for the Cardinals these days isn’t so bad after all.

Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals, or invitations to attend upcoming Cardinal games to brian@chanute.com.

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