What does it really mean to be a fan of a team that’s not from your city, or may even play against your city?
It means you have to be able take it all: the jokes, glares and jeers. Even as a fan stands up to throw a drink at you, your love for the non-native team you cheer for has to be strong.
As a hardcore St. Louis Cardinals fan living in Reds country, I am right in the middle of one of the biggest rivalries in baseball. The Cards and the Reds are division rivals and play each other constantly. Both have to compete against each other for a spot in the postseason, and because the division is so competitive, things can get heated.
If you want an example of the animosity between the teams, all you have to do is throw it back to 2010, when the benches cleared, and a nasty fight started between the two. The tension was high before the game thanks to Brandon Phillips commenting, “Let me make this clear: I hate the Cardinals,” during a pregame interview. During the bottom of the first inning, Phillips walked up to the plate and exchanged some words with Yadier Molina, the Cardinals catcher. Things quickly escalated as both managers started yelling, and the benches cleared.
The brawl finally ended after a few minutes but not without some casualties. Johnny Cueto kicked Chris Carpenter and Jason LaRue, the Cardinals pitcher and back up catcher. LaRue ended up with a gash on his forehead and a concussion. At the end of a seven minute delay, both managers were ejected.
After watching the kicks and punches that were thrown, it could be hard to see how the two teams can continually play each other without fighting each time. Overall though, the teams themselves have a certain level of respect for each other because they both are competitive clubs from baseball towns.
Unfortunately, the fans do not reflect that respect. Phillips is still booed and heckled by the Busch Stadium fans when the Reds travel to St Louis. Molina is still screamed at and trash talked by the fans at Great American Ballpark. Both fan bases still reference the fight on a regular basis.
The fan-on-fan interactions aren’t that intense, but I have gotten my fair share of jeers and jibes about being a Cardinals fan. Going downtown for a game there is always the occasional person who feels the need to say “you suck” as he walks by. And Twitter is always a popular place to trash talk. (I’m guilty of this.) I’ve even gotten some interesting texts about rooting for a non-Cincy team.
While it can be awkward going to a game decked out in my Molina gear, with my friends sitting next to me wearing Jay Bruce or Joey Votto jerseys, we always end up enjoying the game no matter who we are rooting for. Baseball is “America’s Game.” It’s meant for everyone-even if you’re the “wrong” fan cheering on the right city.