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Being a Great Influence is Great

Man, oh man, was this past weekend awesome, or what?  Can you guys believe those crazy Redbirds were able to just go out and DOMINATE the Brewers like that? 

WHO KNEW THEY HAD IT IN THEM???  (Answer:  EVERYONE.)

Anyhow, completing a sweep is always fantastic, but this weekend was particularly special to me.  And it’s because my trips to St. Louis have always been an adult only affair.

(NO BABIES ALLOWED EXCEPT FOR GROWN ONES DAD I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU I PROMISE!!!)

They were boozy, profanity laden excursions that encouraged supreme selfishness and an overwhelming sense of entitlement.  Those games were about ME, dammit!  And the delusional part of my brain always seemed to think the Cardinals should KNOW that and therefore try harder to win those games.  It’s completely insane, I realize, but I suffer from ridiculous illusions of grandeur.

In any case, this trip proved to be much different, as this ended up being the year we finally brought my nephew along for the ride.  As a 10 year old, he was finally deemed old enough to enjoy the experience of gorging on baseball and our related neuroses for three straight days.  So he and his best friend joined our ever expanding traveling pack of Iowa bred Cardinal fans to make this our first St. Louis trip that involved children’s museums and Build-a-Bears.

And let me tell you something, it CHANGED me.

I watched all three of those games with a dramatically different mindset.  It was no longer about wanting the Cardinals to win for me.  It was about PLEADING with them to win for my nephew.

(Pleading so hard, in fact, that I think I gave myself a hernia.)

I wanted lots of home runs and exciting plays at home and dramatic double plays.  I wanted him to have the experience we’ve all had at some point in our lives that cemented and defined our fandom.  I mean, I VIVIDLY remember the day that my personal investment in Cardinals baseball went from passing interest to borderline obsession.  It happened over the course of a single half inning and by the end of it, I was hooked. That was A HUNDRED YEARS ago, but I’ll never forget that game or the feeling I had.   It’s unshakeable.

So, I spent a large amount of time just staring at these two 10 year old kids like a total creep just WAITING for them to realize how absolutely freakin’ AWESOME it all was.  I was irrationally concerned with them enjoying the absolute SHIT out of those games.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was just as personally invested in the outcome as I’ve ever been.  But somehow these wins seemed to mean more knowing that we were creating a whole new generation of fans as a result.  Each night that we got to watch the victory fireworks over Busch Stadium was another affirmation for these two boys just how great it is to care deeply not just about any team, but THIS team.

And while I can’t say for sure that this was the weekend that hooked them for good, we definitely gave it our all.  We played the Cap Dance game on the jumbotron.  We high fived and fist bumped until our hands were sore.  We JAMMED THE F@$# out to Allen Craig’s at bat song.  We were ALL IN.

Ultimately, this series brought out the kinder, gentler fan in me.  I swore less.  I listened more. And instead of going out partying until the wee hours after the games, I went back to the hotel and got my ass handed to me in UNO and Skip-Bo.  (While sweet, these kids are RUTHLESS!!!) I don’t know if it’s permanent, but I feel like I became a little less of an asshole over the weekend.

IT’S LIKE I DON’T EVEN KNOW MYSELF ANYMORE!!!

In any case, it made me realize that THIS is what sports are all about.  It’s not about me.  It’s NEVER been about me.  It’s about the bond between all of us fans who are in it together.  My Dad influenced my love for Cardinals baseball.  And now my nephew and his best pal have joined the pantheon.  We have done our part to insure that the next generation isn’t overrun by delusional Cubs fans.  And for that, YOU ARE WELCOME.

PS:  I have to mention that my nephew’s best friend looks eerily like a young Kyle Lohse.  We, of course, teased him about this all weekend with DELIGHT.  He hated this comparison until Sunday.

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