With the Cubs and Cardinals set to resume their rivalry this weekend, I thought it was about time I shared my thoughts on this rivalry.
Over the last few years writing about the Cubs, I tried to avoid this subject, as I thought my true colors would show and the gig would be up. However, now that the cat is out of the bag so to speak, I'm free to speak my mind about the Cubs and the Cardinals.
First of all, try as I might, I have never considered the Cubs a true "rival". That is because, to be a true rival, you've got to really hate the other team, like the Yankees and Red Sox, Illinois and Iowa (Bruce Pearl, 'nuff said), or the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. You don't often see fans from either side of the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry spewing venom at the other side or worse trying to injure the other teams fans.
For the most part, its a friendly rivalry. Growing up in Central Illinois, where the fan bases were pretty evenly split, I had plenty of friends on both sides and we didn't think anything of it. It was just the subject of good-natured ribbing and bragging rights each year, depending on who won the season series.
So, while Cardinals fans have seen this picture countless times over the years:
We can reply, in kind, with this:
Second, I've never considered the Cubs as true rivals, because it is rare that the Cubs and Cardinals are competing for the division title in the same year. The Red Sox and Yankees always seem to be competing for first place in the AL East. But, going back to when I was a kid (let's just say over 30 years), I can only remember a handful of times that the Cubs and Cardinals were in a pennant race.
That's not to say that there aren't some lunatic fringe fans on both sides of the equation, but for the most part Cubs and Cardinals fans respect each other and that's what makes the rivalry fun. I still cringe every time I see a replay of the "Ryne Sandberg Game" as I'm sure Cubs fans cringe every time Brock for Broglio is mentioned.
Finally, I think one thing we can agree on is that the games are always intense. No matter who is the better team in any given year, you can bet that the games will be hard-played and close, with neither team giving an inch. Players take the rivalry seriously and there are always the Ryan Theriot's of the world to stir the pot even more. However, as Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire showed during the home run race of 1998, there is also a mutual respect between the two clubs.
So, as far as rivalries go, I wouldn't put this up there in the upper echelon's of sports rivalries. Its no Duke/North Carolina or Celtics/Lakers, but it has its moments and passionate fans on both sides.