If you’ve already had enough of “The Cardinal Way” and the whole idea that they do things better and classier and everything than everyone else, by all means DO NOT go read Bernie Miklasz’s column in the Post-Dispatch today, because it’s gonna make you crazy:
“Cardinal Way” isn’t the name of a city street near Busch Stadium, but it does represent a path that the 2013 team followed from the beginning of spring training … The Cardinal Way is an organizational model for success. Scouting players, drafting players, developing players and shaping their personalities to fit into a winning environment. But the Cardinal Way is also an attitude. And more than anything, it is about people, and the bond that forges professional and personal relationships …
… The Cardinals’ old-school persona and dedication to professionalism was mocked as being haughty and arrogant. By believing a team should compete in a way that respects the game, the Cardinals were said to be out of step with modern sports culture. And that’s exactly what’s wrong with sports and our culture at large: The team that tries to do things the right way is somehow seen as abnormal. The team that plays hard but doesn’t try to embarrass opponents is portrayed as the bad guy.
I love Bernie, but he’s missing the point here. No one — at least that I’ve come across — hates the Cardinals for any of these things. Indeed, most folks don’t hate the Cardinals at all unless the Cardinals have recently beaten the tar out of their own rooting interest.
Indeed, I bet if you asked most people to evaluate the way the Cardinals play and the way they’ve built their team, they’d give the Cardinals ace ratings. Who wouldn’t want their team’s farm system to be producing such talent? Who wouldn’t want to have the kind of depth this team has? Who wouldn’t want to root for a team with players who — as far as we can tell from the outside looking in — seem to be pretty good guys. Sure, we’ll mock a bit when some unwritten rules violation comes up, but I really don’t see anyone truly bent-out-shape at the Cardinals themselves for this stuff.
What people DO hate, however, and what DOES drive people absolutely crazy is when it is insisted that The Cardinal Way is the only way. Or — and this is the one that really gets people nuts — when Cardinals fans or partisans (and that can include a columnist from time to time) takes smug, vicarious satisfaction from the manner in which the team with whom they are aligned operates. When “the Cardinals do things well” transforms to “the Cardinals do things better, always.” When “we love our team” becomes “we love our team better than you love your team.” When “our team is lovable” becomes “our team is so much more worthy of love.”
That doesn’t come from the Cardinals themselves. That comes from Cardinals fans on message boards and the commentariat. It’s akin to finding another parent’s bragging about their kid’s accomplishments and character distasteful, not hating the kid themselves. If anything we feel a bit sorry for the kid for having such insufferable parents.
That’s what people are reacting to with St. Louis. It’s not about the Cardinals going about their Cardinal Way. It’s about everyone else getting off on them doing it so darn much.