Soaking It All In

So I’ve spent the weekend soaking up the warm rays of victory and basking in the glow of a Cardinal-Red happy ending. It’s been fun receiving notes and phone calls full of good tidings and congratulations.

Friday night after the game, our local television station did a live broadcast from a bar in Manhattan Beach. They somehow found a threesome of fellas who were the only Cardinals faithful in a house that seemed packed full of Tigers fans. They interviewed one of them who proclaimed that he had waited 23 years for this World Series Championship and that that Friday night was the happiest night of his life.

One of my many well-wishing friends called shortly thereafter and reiterated the same sentiment. He even went so far as to claim phantom pangs of worry before having to remind himself that we had actually won. He said he wasn’t sure he’d be able to believe it until the next morning when the newspapers came out.

But about three or four celebratory phone calls down the line, I realized that something was wrong. Well, something was wrong with me, at least. I was loving the excitement and jubilation from everyone else, but I just wasn’t feeling it– not truly reveling in it– myself. I knew I was supposed to be jumping up and down and hugging my neighbors and shooting bottle rockets into the air… But my cup just wasn’t overflowing in that way.

I had to check myself.  But the answer was obvious and came to me without much coaxing or soul searching. I wasn’t feeling ambivilence or reluctant glee. And I certainly wasn’t dealing with a case of disappointment or shame. As opposed to my exuberant friends, I was sitting fat and happy in my living room oozing with well-satiated satisfaction and pride.

This World Championship is what was supposed to happen. Winning the World Series is what we, as Cardinals, are supposed to do– every year. In my mind, being a Cardinal means you’re a champion at the core. It’s in our blood to fight harder when the chips are down. The struggles and the injuries are only supposed to make us stronger come crunch time. And that’s what happened. It was a storybook ending for the St. Louis Cardinals that truly ended "… happily ever after." Having all our boys piled on top of each other in the middle of a baseball field is how the end of every Cardinals season is supposed to look. I just wanted to lean back in my La-Z-Boy (if I’d’ve had one), rub my bloated gut (I’m working on it) and watch the fruits of our labors erupt on the screen.

It’s those frustrating, ill-begotten years that actually set my blood on fire and get me all awash with emotion. Those years in which we defy ourselves and fall flat in the face of adversity make me want to slit my wrists. Those games in which we defeat ourselves send me into fits of anger and torment. Those self-satisfied seasons that we expect more from our opponents and less from our teammates make me want to throw my TV out the window. It’s those years that send me into winter depressed and sullen. It’s those seasons that find me crying helpless tears. It’s at the end of another fruitless World Series that my heart sinks into the deep cavernous pit of my stomach making me want to sleep for a thousand years as opposed to, say, look at anyone.

The cap to the 2006 season was everything I’ve thought each of our previous season-enders should have been. I go into each season earnestly believing that we can, and should, go all the way. (Is that a Yankee thing to do?) For me, there is just something about being a Cardinal that dictates you’ve got "class" and "winner" hard-wired into your system. There is nothing to do during the regular season than to make way for the post-season.

So for a moment there, I felt ashamed for not acting like I thought this day would never come. For not treating our victory as a minor miracle. But only for a moment.

And then I relaxed. I absorbed all that I was witnessing on the TV screen. It was fun to watch our boys having their moments in the sun: So Taguchi tossing batting gloves into the stands, Scott Rolen running in open-mouthed joy for Albert Pujols, Tony LaRussa hugging his wife. And then I did the same. In my own way. Meaning, I wallowed in the knowledge that for the first time in quite a while, we had finished our season as Cardinals. We had done what we were meant to do and somehow I felt as though I had helped in that effort.

I let the warm strains of Cardinal pride and exhaustion pour over me and have never felt so right with the world.

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