Let me begin this blog by stating something I've said before: by and large, sports don't really matter.
Of course, this isn't true for the athletes who are paid to play the game, the people who work at for the teams, or even for companies like OnMilwaukee.com that derive direct revenue from teams like the Brewers (who are an advertising and promotional partner) and from indirect revenue from the page impressions we serve when people read our sports content.
But as fans, sports don't really matter. Whether the Brewers win the World Series or lose 106 games, life goes on.
And with that disclosure out of the way, let me say this: This Brewers-Cardinals National League Championship matters. A whole lot.
Why? Because if you're a Brewers fan, you fall into one of three categories:
- You weren't born yet or you don't remember the Brewers losing to the Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1982 World Series.
- You're old enough to remember the pain of coming so close and having to wait 29 years for the opportunity to get a second chance.
- You're about my age (37), and you remember '82 with some clarity, and you've spent you entire time as a Brewers fan living in its shadow.
None of these categories are especially enviable for a baseball fan in a market so small that, had the commissioner not moved MLB's headquarters here, we might not even still have a team.
It's also every reason why beating the Cardinals this week is a monkey that I can't wait to get off our city's collective back.
The Cardinals are a wonderful, rich and historical franchise (or so they tell themselves), and St. Louis is a great baseball city. I've often wondered what team I'd root for if I lived somewhere, like, I don't know, Utah, that didn't have a team nearby. I honestly think I'd root for the Brewers or the Cardinals. They both have polite, knowledgeable fans ... and they hate the Cubs. Maybe I'd even pick the Cardinals because they are so steeped in tradition.
But never mind such idle speculation. I absolutely want to demolish the Cardinals in this series.
Here's why: The evil genius that is Tony La Russa approaches the game so differently than the Brewers' skipper, Ron Roenicke. La Russa makes his statements by plunking Prince Fielder and claiming the Brewers cheat by altering lighting conditions. Roenicke keeps his cool and controls a cast of characters. Keeping a hot head like Nyjer Morgan in check, for example, is no easy task.
The Brewers play passionate baseball, egged on by passionate fans. True, they haven't always filled the seats, but since the affable, energetic and rich Mark Attanasio bought the team with a commitment to win, fans came out in droves, and the players fed off the positive energy.
I know this to be true, having had long conversations with former Brewers pitcher and OnMilwakee.com blogger Seth McClung. It hurt him so much to leave town because this blue-collar fan base embraced him as one of their own. We've done this for years. What Brewers fan among us wouldn't take a bullet for Robin Yount? Go back earlier, and you hear stories of Milwaukeeans making home cooked meals for Braves fans. This is a baseball city just as much as St. Louis. It just flies under the radar.
And that's the other reason the Crew must beat the Cards and advance to the World Series. When I moved back to Milwaukee after college in 1996, I was saddened by this city's inferiority complex. I took matters into my own hands and launched OnMilwaukee.com with like-minded partners like Jeff Sherman, and now I have the privilege of showing off Milwaukee to 350,000 people each month and working with 20 of the smartest, most creative Milwaukeeans I know. I hope I've helped in some small way.
But the Brewers still sit in waiting to exorcise the demons of 1982. The fact that we must go through St. Louis to get there makes it so much more poignant.
It's an even bigger deal than the Packers winning a Super Bowl, because a salary cap and schedule parity have made football fair. Baseball, though, remains a terribly unfair sport. The Yankees can snipe the game's cream of the crop without batting an eye, and maybe they'll take Prince Fielder next year then taunt us like they did after snagging CC Sabathia. But right now, the Yankees are out, and the Brewers are in.
The Brewers' time is now. Milwaukee's time is now. Even guys like Yount want payback for the team he still loves. He wants to excel where even he could not.
No, baseball doesn't matter. But it also does. This team represents more than a game played by millionaires. It's a microcosm for everything that's good and special about Milwaukee.
And I'm having an amazing, stressful and pride-filled time hanging on every pitch. I'd be willing to bet I'm not alone.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.