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Dodgers vs. Cardinals is a baseball playoff series, not a culture war

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

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Can it be over yet? This ridiculous spectacle the NLCS has turned into it? Not the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals clash, they've played some wonderful baseball, and if the Dodgers can eke out another win Friday night and the series goes to a Game 7, great. But can we kill this manufactured subtext that's dragging along with the series?

Apparently it can't just be the two best teams in the National League playing for a chance to go to the World Series, because that's not enough anymore. It needs to be bigger. Uglier. More of a fight. This isn't just a playoff series. It's a culture war.

It's big, rich L.A. with their imported stars and their flashy style of play and all that fun they've been having against stoic St. Louis, mindful of tradition, a homegrown team that plays the game the right way.

It's the west coast against middle America. It's what you believe in vs. what you don't. It's Wall Street vs. Main Street, or Main Street vs. the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Whatever. It's a version of the same us vs. them narrative that always seems to keep this country clutching its pearls.

Except for it's not those things. It's a playoff baseball series. There are seven of them every year, nine if you count wild card games. This one is interesting, sure. It's interesting because the Cardinals are up 3-2 and the series has been so close that the total score is 13-12 (Dodgers advantage). It's interesting because the Cardinals are trying to not blow a 3-1 series lead like they did last season. It's interesting because the Dodgers were counted out earlier in the year and roared back. They were counted out earlier this week, and now we wait to see if they have another roar in them.

Those storylines? Fine. But this?

The Cardinals actually felt ambivalent toward the Los Angeles Dodgers at the start of this National League Championship Series, but five games later, can't stand the sight of them ... This isn't just about flying another pennant in their stadium - their fourth in 10 years - or having the opportunity to win their 12th World Series championship.

It's about the responsibility of upholding tradition. It's for old-time baseball.

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That's from Bob Nightengale of USA Today in a story that appeared Friday. We feel obligated to point out that really, it is just about flying another pennant in the stadium and going to the World Series again.

Remember the Pittsburgh Pirates? There was a whole lot of subtext in that NLDS series that the Cards won last week. Right now, the Pirates are a distant memory. Just like Yasiel Puig staring down an umpire will be a distant memory a week from today if the Cardinals are getting ready to play Game 3 of the World Series.

But just for fun, let's continue to roll our eyes at the "culture war" of the NLCS:

Times are changing. Fans want to be entertained - or at least teams perceive as much. Ballparks have become entertainment venues on grass. Yet here, where Clydesdales still trot the field, the Cardinals are trying to preserve tradition.

The Dodgers are a personal affront to the Cardinals' value system, and they're going to do everything in their power to assure that style isn't celebrated in the World Series.

*Eyeroll* Nightengale talked to Brian Schwarze, 32, the grandson of Cardinals hero Stan "The Man" Musial, and, well ... here you go.

Imagine Musial's reaction watching Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig hit a ball to right field, throw his arms into the air, admiring what he believed was a homer, only to run the bases for a triple, and celebrate again? ...

"My grandfather wasn't controversial, but what if Bob Gibson was on the mound,'' Schwarze said. "(Puig) never would have made third base, because Gibson would have run around the bases and tackled him. That stuff takes away from the game. That's not baseball.''.

Eye. Roll.

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Certainly, it's not Cardinals' baseball.

They'd like to know if everything, even the crowd noise, have to be fake in Southern California. Do fans really have to be instructed when to scream as if they're a game-show audience? Can't anything on the scoreboard be shown besides fans acting crazy, dance contests, and kiss cams?

Is it necessary to have movie star Will Ferrell grab the microphone for the pre-game introductions to pump up the crowd? Do we have to see actor Ken Jeong of the Hangover franchise screaming atop the Dodgers dugout, imploring their fans to, yes, "MAKE SOME NOISE!"

EYEROLL!

It's a good thing this series can only possibly last two more days, or people might get their eyes stuck.

Look, I get it. Whoever clashes with the Dodgers has to be morphed into a storybook nemesis. It's like how you can't have a Batman movie with a perfectly matched villain. That's why the Atlanta Braves were the fun police and it's why the Cardinals are here to uphold tradition.

Except the Cardinals have fun too. They were trying to get an L.A. security guard to dance the the other day. Adam Wainwright sings karaoke dressed like Billy Ray Cyrus. They wear camel costumes for hump day. I doubt Stan Musial did any of those things.

And the Dodgers respect the game. Do you think Don Mattingly doesn't respect the game? That guys like Mark and A.J. Ellis don't? That Yasiel Puig wouldn't have endured everything he did to leave Cuba if he didn't respect the game of baseball?

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So let's just forget flash vs. tradition. Instead, let's focus on Cy Young favorite Clayton Kershaw pitching for the Dodgers against dazzling rookie Michael Wacha for the Cardinals in Friday night's Game 6.

Wacha, a 22-year-old who made nine regular season starts, has a 0.67 ERA in two postseason games, one of which he nearly threw a no-hitter in. Kershaw, the 25-year-old best pitcher in baseball, has a 0.47 ERA in three postseason starts. When they met in Game 2, it was a 1-0 win for the Cardinals.

Save your culture war. Let's savor that.

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Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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