The St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington freakin’ Nationals.
I grew up a Cardinals fan, and watching these two teams play each other wasn’t a problem for me for a long time. The Nats were never really competing for anything and often looked like boys against men — although the boys won with suprising (sometimes alarming) regularity. I saw them compete in both Washington and St. Louis, year after year, with the Cardinals fighting for a postseason bid while the Nationals fought for whatever it was they were fighting for. (It was dignity, I think.)
That’s certainly changed. I sat at Nationals Park on Thursday night and watched the first-place Nats abuse the suddenly-fading Cardinals. The 8-1 drubbing should have been even worse. Ex-Cardinal Edwin Jackson, who is no better than the fourth-best starting pitcher on the Nats squad, mowed the Cards down like grass and pitched the second-best game I’ve seen in person all year (a Strasburg gem of a few weeks ago tops the list). Bryce Harper crushed a line-drive homer that looked like it could kill a man, and he missed a second to dead center by about three feet.
And I sat there, conflicted. Should I be miserable? Should I be thrilled? Should I root for the National League’s most successful franchise, or the thrilling team representing a city so long synonymous with baseball loser-dom?
In my heart, I knew. Atop my head was a Nats hat. I desperately want the rest of the country to see what I’ve been seeing this year.
I’m a Nats fan first now, and a Cardinals fan second. So be it.