The day I became a Cardinals fan

Today’s Wisch List column from the Kankakee Daily Journal

The day I became a Cardinals fan


July 18, 2009

Anyone who knows me knows that when it comes to my sporting allegiances I’m practically ashamed that my blood runs red.

You know, like, Indiana Hoosiers red. Or Wisconsin Badgers red. Or, heaven help me, St. Louis Cardinals red.

When it comes to my veins, I’m a blueblood (both Illini and Cubbie) through and through. But this past weekend, for the sake of this column, I forsook my lifelong fandom and did the absolute unthinkable.

I became – am I really typing this? – a Cardinals fan.

Yes, last Saturday in a social experiment done for your amusement I donned red as my identity went to the birds in one of the most personally uncomfortable experiences of my life.

Don’t ever say I’m not committed to my craft.

The whole thing began last week prior to the Chicago arrival of the Cardinals – and their flocks of fans – for a big weekend series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Out of the red (it sure wasn’t the blue), I was struck with the novel notion that it might be interesting if I transformed myself – the biggest Cubs fan I know – into a temporary Cardinals fan to see what it’s like to experience Game Day in Wrigleyville as a Redbirds rooter.

Well, since my hair isn’t long enough to feather and I had, you know, tossed all my stonewashed jean shorts and high-tops after junior high (I kid, I kid … OK, not really), I needed to do some shopping in order to pass myself off as your typical St. Lunatic on the prowl in the Windy City.

So, on Friday, I drove to Woodfield Mall after work to search for some Cardinals gear. At Foot Locker, I found nothing (good for them). And at Champs Sports, I thought I was about to strike out again — and perhaps save myself from this impending masochism – when I spotted a “Pujols No. 5” T-shirt buried beneath a pile.

Well, I was not wearing that thing. And instead went with the lesser of two evils, grabbing a red-and-white shirt featuring the Cardinals’ familiar script “STL” logo on the chest.

At the counter, I reluctantly gave the shirt to a perky cashier named Tiffany. She rang me up, and as I handed my credit card to her, I sneezed.

“Bless you,” Tiffany said cheerily in response to my apparent allergic reaction to red.

“Yeah, I’ll need it,” I muttered as I took the shopping bag and walked away – only to sneeze again.

On Saturday afternoon, the Cubs were scheduled to host the Cards at 3:05 p.m. So, about an hour before game time, I forced myself off the couch and forced the Cardinals shirt over my head.

Standing in front of my bedroom mirror with a scowl on my face, I looked like a Redcoat. And felt like Benedict Arnold.

This was going to be even more difficult than I thought.

To keep my soul from completely fleeing my body, I tugged a University of Illinois baseball cap onto my head before walking out of my apartment to face a Bizzaro Wrigleyville.

Trudging down Sheffield toward the park and pulling my cap as low over my eyes as possible, I became more self-conscious with every step.

Initially, my plan was to “Run the Bases” around Wrigley, visiting the four bars – Cubby Bear, Harry Caray’s Tavern, Murphy’s Bleachers and Casey Moran’s – that sit on the street corners around the ballpark.

Upon reaching Wrigley’s bleacher entrance, however, I knew that wasn’t happening. In my shirt, I felt itchy and incredibly awkward. I’d make an awful undercover cop.

Nevertheless, I made myself do a lap around the park and on Waveland, a Cubs fan shouted at me, “Cross the street, ya Cardinals fan!” I did, having never before been so happy to be yelled at.

By the time I reached Clark & Addison, however, that happiness had long faded and I needed an escape, so I slipped in to Taco Bell. An employee handed me my order, saying “Go Cubs” before looking at my shirt and stammering, “I mean, St. Louis. Go Chicago-Louis.”

Apparently, my personal conflict was contagious.

After holding the door open for a Cubs fan in a wheelchair – he didn’t say thanks – I hightailed it home, where I yanked off the Cardinals shirt, slipped on a Cubs shirt and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

On Sunday, I did my penance by attending both ends of the Cubs-Cards doubleheader while blissfully wearing blue.

As for the “STL” shirt?

Well, I’m giving it to my brother’s girlfriend. She’s from St. Louis and is a Cardinals fan.

But I like her anyway.

The look of digust ... and, yes, I know. Make my bed.
The look of digust ... and, yes, I know. Make my bed.