COMMENTARY | Until May 7. That is how long fans have to wait before the Chicago Cubs take on their hated rival, the St. Louis Cardinals, in what will be the first of 19 games the two teams play against each other in 2013. They have been playing each other, in some form, since 1885.
All kinds of reasons contribute to the fire of sports rivalries, but here are a few of the reasons why the Cubs hate the Cardinals:
1. Because, recently at least, the Cardinals beat the Cubs more than the Cubs beat the Cardinals. Last year, for example, the Cardinals won 10 out of 17. Not to mention, the Cardinals have won no less than 11 World Series titles since the last time the Cubs won one.
So perhaps it's surprising that the Cubs actually have a better historical win-loss record than the Cardinals in the series. It's definitely a complex rivalry, but anyone who says that jealousy isn't a part of the Cubs' hatred is a liar.
2. Tony La Russa. For Cubs fans, is there any worse combination than someone who managed both the Chicago White Sox and Cardinals? The man doesn't even manage there anymore, but his presence still looms dauntingly over Busch Stadium and the entire franchise.
It's not an accident that in Buzz Bissinger's book about a 2003 Cubs-Cardinals series, "Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager," La Russa is the book's focal point. As a manager, he was cold and calculating, and so many of the decisions he made just seemed to work, sometimes at the expense of a Cubs franchise that seemed more like a hamster running on an exercise wheel.
3. The two teams play in the same division. They play each other a lot. This season will be no exception. In recent years, it always seems like there is nothing all that extraordinary about the Cardinals team, except that they play sound, disciplined baseball, which more often than not propels them to the top of the division by season's end. Since 2000, the Cardinals have won the division six times to the Cubs' three.
4. Geography. Wrigley Field to Busch Stadium is a little more than a 5-hour drive. I've actually made the trip myself. There are certainly teams out there that are closer to each other but the distance is short enough for a day or weekend trip, and fans from both sides do it routinely.
And since there are plenty of people in Illinois who are closer to St. Louis than Chicago, the two teams even battle over fans.
5. Mark McGwire. The legitimacy of the 1998 home run chase has been (rightly) called into question because of the steroid issue, but this does nothing to take away from the fact that so many people were emotionally invested when McGwire and the Cubs' Sammy Sosa chased down Roger Maris' season home run record of 61. Both players passed the old mark, but, of course, it was McGwire who ultimately won out with 70 home runs.
Chris Schumerth is a freelance writer who grew up in Northern Indiana following the Cubs. You can follow him on Twitter @schumes22.
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