A few years ago, there was a commercial campaign–I can’t even remember what the product or service was–but it ran for a little while. Alec Baldwin and the dude from The Office (Jim, maybe? I don’t watch much non-baseball on TV) played Yankees & Red Sox fans who traded barbs, jabs, & zingers about the other’s team. One of the lines Baldwin dropped on him about the rivalry was that it was, in fact, not one at all. “Grass doesn’t have a ‘rivalry’ with the lawn mower,” he said. For the better part of a century, that was true. The Boston Red Sox were always the bridesmaid, while the Yankees were the bride more than two dozen times.
But, standings, winning percentages and games behind aside, I submit to you that there’s no better rivalry in all of sports, than Yankees/Red Sox.
Plenty of similarities exist when looking at the Cardinals/cubs rivalry. It isn’t that the baby bears have sucked for more than a century, it’s simply that they haven’t won. Those 4 Buffalo Bills teams didn’t suck, they just never quite finished the season all the way at the top. The North-siders have had some pretty good seasons, though they’ve largely been few and far between, and their World Series championship-less streak is well documented. Total impact on the rivalry? Marginal at best.
The cubs are awful, there’s no doubt about it. Plenty of theories are out there as to why. From billy goats to day games, there’s no shortage of speculation as to the reasons for the “lovable losers” longstanding tradition of failure, dating back to shortly after the invention of fire. The St. Louis Cardinals, however, have a winning tradition, and while some of those teams through the years have been pretty bad (Opening Day starter, Donovan Osbourne, anyone?), it’s usually not been much more than the next decade before the redbirds returned to their winning ways. I honestly don’t think this has much impact at all on the rivalry. Granted, it has changed over the years, perhaps most notably with the introduction of a National League Central division, but it is far from dead.
The fans (at least the good ones) will carry on the friendly rivalry between these two clubs for years and years to come. They’ll teach their kids about it, and their grandkids after them. Because, really, the spirit of the fans is where the rivalry abides–not with players, coaches, managers…etc. Ok, maybe when LaRussa was here and Baker was there, it included managers, but other than that, it’s purely the fans. Ask the Cards current hitting coach, or the cubs current first base coach. Ask the postgame guy on Fox Sports Midwest who used to rock the half-shirts, frosted tips, and gold gloves, or Joe Mather, or Mark Greuidneklaneeskzianiak–the rivalry is for the fans. That’s where it is, that’s where it’s always been, and that’s where it’s going to stay.