By Brad VanFossan
...was giving up on the St. Louis Cardinals. Stepping away from the Cleveland sports scene for a moment, I have to acknowledge the 2011 World Series, which will be remembered at least by myself for a long time to come. The Texas Rangers nor the St. Louis Cardinals hold a place in my heart much less my short term memory for the previous 360+ days this past year, but they sure created an amazing story in sports history.
On August 25th, the Cardinals were 10 1/2 games back of the Atlanta Braves for the National League Wild Card with 32 games left. On the last game of the regular season, the Braves and Cardinals were tied for the wild card. On this day the Philadelphia Phillies, who had their division clinched, decided to play their starters vs. Atlanta (remember this little tid bit) and defeated them while St. Louis went on to win their game, capping an incredible last month surge to make the playoffs as the Wild Card. Their first round opponent was the Philadelphia Phillies, the team who arguably arrogantly played their starters on the last game of the season, which allowed St. Louis to sneak in the playoffs. Be careful what you wish for?
Aside from the incredible regular season comeback, the first playoff sign that the Cardinals were a team of destiny is when they beat the mighty and heavily favored Phillies in Game 2 at Philadelphia to even the five game series at one. The Phillies, who could have rested their starters on the last game of the season, giving Atlanta a better chance to win on the last day, were now in a dog fight with the team they helped get in the playoffs. Well Goliath lost this dog fight three games to two. At this point I was playfully telling people at work, St. Louis is going to win it all, they just seemed destined, and I liked the fact that they had the experience of having been in two World Series previous in 2004 and 2006, winning it in 2006. Sure some of the faces were new, but the manager's were not. Love him or hate him, you gotta respect Tony LaRussa's managing ability. LaRussa is now 3-3 in six World Series appearances and seems to have the Cardinals in the playoff hunt year after year. I see them as the MLB's version of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tony LaRussa seems to be able to press all the right buttons at the most critical of times, except for the ones on the bullpen phone, but we've all dialed a wrong number at one time or another, whether drunk or sober. This little mistake didn't cost St. Louis, and deep down, coming back home for games six and seven, they probably knew all along that it wasn't going to either. Trailing Texas three games to two in Game 6, the Cardinals came back from two run deficits in both the 9th, and 10th innings, with St. Louis born David Freese delivery the game tying triple in the 9th, and the game-winning walk off Home Run in the 11th. The Cardinals became the first team to win a World Series game while being one strike away from elimination in two different innings of the same game! How do you beat a story of not only that history making fact and a local kid being the hero of a World Series game to keep his hometown team alive for a Game 7?
Well the answer to that would be by winning Game 7 in front of the home fans. The Cardinals showed unbelievable heart and resilience from the last month plus of the season and all throughout the playoffs. Sure sports are just a game to most people, and even being incredibly passionate about sports, I think they should be. But at times you can learn lessons from sports and they can be a great escape from the everyday stresses of life. And the Cardinals 2011 season was a story book one, not a story that could have been told by Walt Disney, or even Steven Spielberg, but a story told by sports, and the incredible game of baseball. And while cliche, the Cardinals taught us that when down and out, you are rewarded when you keep fighting, and when others see you continuing to fight, you gain respect, and the confidence of an individual gains even more steam when others around you have the same confidence and determination. When you have that and a leader who believes in you, the World is yours, or in the case The World Series. Maybe assumption should be the 8th deadliest sin?