You have probably gathered by this point that I like Albert Pujols. Of course, that would be the wrong conclusion for you to draw. I LOVE Albert Pujols. And I am not alone. Not only did the man take my favorite team from the doldrums of the 90’s to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011, but he did it with a work-ethic, a grace, and a power that restored my faith in a sport that had been rocked by scandal and steroid use. He restored my faith in humanity. He is not only a sports hero. He is a really great human being… a super hero. Did you watch the 60-Minutes’ piece? There isn’t anything more to say about that. Humility is part of the equation.
I got my love of baseball from listening to games on the radio with my Great Grandpa Raymond. We listened to the Minnesota Twins take on the baseball world on KGLO Radio in Mason City, Iowa. I heard Harmon Killebrew smack homers and Tony Oliva get key hits in crucial situations. I followed the exploits of Rod Carew. And then, the St. Louis Cardinals took over the 60’s. They were in the World Series three times and won it twice. Bob Gibson was pitching. Lou Brock played Left Field and stole bases. It was miraculous. I would go on to live and die with the Cardinals every baseball season, even though I could only follow them through the newspaper and occasionally when they played the Cubs on TV. Tim McCarver, Ted Simmons, Willie McGee, Tommy Herr, Ozzie Smith, Jack Clark, Mark Macgwire, Scott Carpenter, Scott Rolen… If those names don’t mean anything to you then you are not really a baseball fan, and you probably didn’t read this far anyway.
Anyway… he did it. 600 home runs. He is now part of an elite group in the record books. And there is no doubt he is one of the best baseball players that ever lived.
Yes, it happened again. My favorite hockey team, having advanced in the playoffs by beating a team they weren’t supposed to be able to beat, have lost in the next round. No more nonsense about this being our year. The St. Louis Blues have the playoff blues again this year. No Chicago Cubs’ end-of-the-world theatrics for us.
Our resident superstar, Vladimir Tarasenko, failed to bring us the elusive Stanley Cup again this year. I mean, I have only been rooting for them to win it all since the team was founded in the 1960’s. We were able to be in three consecutive Stanley Cup finals. The Great Glenn Hall cemented his standing as a Hall of Fame player by being the first and only goalie of a losing team to win the MVP of the playoffs award in the twilight of his career. The team was the winningest team in all of hockey for several straight years in the 90’s, and were led by legendary Brett Hull (who only managed to win the Cup after moving to the Dallas Stars) and still no Cup win. 50-plus years without a championship. I guess we have to wait another 50 to play by Cubs’ rules.
I will be 110 years old when we celebrate that Stanley Cup.
Yes, we are out of the playoffs. Even though we won the last game of the year against the evil Pirates, we fell one game short. The evil San Francisco Giants beat the hapless Dodgers. No, that’s not quite right. The EVIL San Francisco Bullies With a Glandular Problem beat the worthless Dodgers whom you can never depend on when you need them to win! And so, believe it or not, I must now root for the Cubs to win it all in the National League. Yes, the Cubs, even though they took the Cardinals out of the playoffs last year during the Cards’ 100-win dominant season, are the least detestable team still in the playoff hunt for the World Series. Donald Trump may be the next president of the U.S. The Fukushima nuclear plant has irradiated the entire Pacific Ocean. Global warming is out of control. And the Cubs might win the World Series. Humanity is doomed.
But it gets worse. I am also a loyal Arizona Cardinals fan (a condition I have suffered since they were the St. Louis Cardinals, before evil billionaire Birdy Bidwill moved them to Arizona in a petulant fit about stadiums and sky-boxes).
Last year the Cardinals were poised to be Super Bowl contenders. Even though they lost last year to the Panthers, they were favored to be one of the teams in the big game this year. But then they lost a squeaker to New England in the first game of the season. They lost last week to a suddenly potent Buffalo defense. And yesterday, the EVIL Rams not only snatched victory away in the 4th quarter, they wounded Carson Palmer again, this time with a possible concussion. At one win and three losses, this will have to be a come-back season… if it is not lost already. Maybe the world needs to end to put me out of my misery.
It went to seven games just like the Chicago Blackhawk series. I was fully prepared to see the Blues lose and be out of the playoffs… again. But it didn’t go quite that way this time. Hope has returned to roost in the heart of this Blues fan.
The Blues are going to the Conference Championship series for the first time since 2001. It will be a chance to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970. The Blues have never won the Cup. Now that the string of first round playoff exits is ended, I have reason to hope that some of the endless frustrations are coming to an end. The next round will either be against the Nashville Predators or the San Jose Sharks. The Blues have already defeated much tougher foes in the first two rounds, the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks and the division champion Dallas Stars. But I am, of course, aware that either team is capable of upsetting the Blues. I am mentally prepared for a loss. However, there is reason to hope.
St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott stretches just before the start of the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on January 14, 2016. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
The reason to hope is goalie Brian Elliot. He stood up to more than 30 shots on goal in last night’s game. Only one got past him. The other side was not nearly so lucky… or so skilled. Combined with the scoring abilities of Vladimir Tarasenko and Paul Stastny they should be unstoppable. I know I am rattling on with my own self-absorbed fascinations and ephemeral joy at last night’s victory. And I know it may not be any more than a moment’s flicker of light and hope and happiness… but that’s what being a sports fan is all about.
My all-time favorite hockey team beat the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, in the seventh and final game of their first round playoff series. They will now take on the hometown Dallas Stars in round two. I can’t afford to see them play here in town, or even on TV, which we don’t have at the moment. But I can root on the Blues to defeat the hometown Stars, and maybe… just maybe… it is finally our year!
Tarasenko is the scoring star of this year’s Blues team.
I have been a Blues hockey fan since the team was founded in the 60’s. Their first three years saw them in the Stanley Cup finals against the Montreal Canadiens in ’68 and ’69 and the Boston Bruins in ’70. They represented the six expansion teams from the six-team expansion division, and they didn’t stand a chance. They lost all four games in all three series. But I was hooked. I was a hockey fan and Blues fan for life after that. And they haven’t been back to the Stanley Cup Finals since. They have had great teams capable of it. They have had stars like Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Curtis Joseph, and Brenden Shanahan. Hall of Famers like Glen Hall and Jaques Plante gave them their previous chances at the championship. This year, it will be up to team captain David Backes, goalie Brian Elliot, and Vladimir Tarasenko to lead the team to the wins they have never managed before.
It is premature for me to celebrate already. The Blues play the Dallas Stars in the next round, a resurgent team led by Jamie Benn, an emerging superstar. But the Blues have lost in the first round of the playoffs for three years in row, even when they were the favorite to win the Cup. And it was the Blackhawks who did it to them last year. This year is big even if they don’t win another game. But I think it is significant that they have taken out the biggest roadblock to victory already. There is hope.
Down again… oh, oh, oh, down deep and so blue again…
They did it to me again this year.
Since 1967 when the St. Louis Blues were a first year expansion NHL hockey team, I have loved and lived for the Blues. Their first three years in the league they were in the Stanley Cup finals. I got to watch them play on my family’s old black-and-white Motorola against the Boston Bruins, their third try at winning the cup. (My best friend preferred the Bruins and every other kid in town who could even stand hockey sided with them… Hence old Tiger Bates crooning at me “St. Louie is gonna be Blue tonight!” after every single game.) They didn’t realistically have a chance. They were the representative from the expansion half of the league. They dominated teams like the Minnesota North Stars, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers, and the California Golden Seals because they managed to land aging Hall-of-Famers like goalies Glenn Hall, Jaques Plante, and scorers like Dickie Moore and Doug Harvey in the expansion draft… there’s more to read about their history here;
I also loved the next generation of heroes, like Red Berensen here, the old Red Baron of Hockey, and future Hall of Famers like Bernie Federko, Brett Hull, and did you know that the Great Wayne Gretzky played a season with the Blues before he retired? Almost every year of their existence since that fateful first three years of Stanley Cup play they have been a legitimate contender to go back and actually win the cup. Philadelphia did it in the 70’s, Pittsburgh in the 80’s and 90’s, the Stars did it after moving to Dallas. But the Blues have never made it back to the Stanley Cup Finals. Something always goes wrong.
photos from the St. Louis Blues home page and Arch City Sports
We never seem to be able to get past arch rivals. The Chicago Blackhawks beat us and go on to win the cup. The Los Angeles Kings beat us and go on to win the cup. The last three years in a row we’ve been taken out in the very first round of the playoffs… This year, despite winning the toughest division in hockey, they lose to the Minnesota Wild (the team that filled the hole the North Stars left when they moved to Dallas). I am totally confusticated and fristumbobulated… and I mean in the worst possible way! (Those are bad words in the language of the fairy-folk from Iowa… terrible curse words.) It couldn’t be worse… well… except, of course for being a fan of Chicago Cubs baseball. (Yeah, I guess it could be worse.)
Anyway… after such high hopes… I am once again singing the Blues.