Column: Ease up on Chicago fans, St. Louis

If you wouldn’t kick a puppy, then you shouldn’t beat up on these poor Cubbies.

Rivalries are one of the most unique and enjoyable aspects in all of sports.

The two rival teams have a history of bad blood and are often from the same geographic region. When the two teams meet, records are irrelevant, fan bases are fired up and a competitive game is a virtual guarantee.

This is what makes for such compelling games between North Carolina vs. Duke, Auburn vs. Alabama, SLUH vs. CBC, etc.

With that said, and with another opening day of baseball upon us, it's time to acknowledge that the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs are no longer the, pardon my pun, archrivals that they once were. That fact has been true now for the better part of a decade.

Everyone enjoyed the chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa for the single season home run in 1998, and it was a huge factor in bringing fans back to baseball following the strike in 1994.

But the teams weren't competitive; the Cardinals were barely above .500, and the Cubs were a fringe playoff team.

That changed within the next couple of years. Going to a Cardinals-Cubs game in the early 2000s was an event, as the game featured two teams who at the time were two of the best in the National League, not to mention two of its best hitters in Sammy Sosa and Mark Mc — excuse me, I meant Albert Pujols.

I specifically remember going to a Cardinals-Cubs game at the Old Busch in 2003, a game that ended with current Cardinals manager Mike Matheny driving home the winning run with a walk-off walk. As my dad and I began leaving the ballpark and headed for the ultimate Cardinal post-game destination Ted Drewes, we saw two enraged and over-served Cubs fans throwing their $8 beers from the upper deck to the playing surface below in protest of the game's outcome.

Though it was probably due to inebriation, I have a hard time imagining a Cubs fan get that upset over a loss to the Cardinals in 2014.

Even as the Cubs remained competitive for another handful of years following the 2003 season (and the infamous Steve Bartman incident that ended it), they have since fallen to the cellar of not only the division, but the entire National League.

Fortunately for the Cubbies, they’ve hired Theo Epstein, former general manager of the Boston Red Sox who won two World Series in his time there, to resurrect and rebuild the franchise.

The Cardinals on the other hand have experienced almost nothing but success in the last 10 years. They've been to the World Series on four separate occasions, winning two of them, despite losing the best player in baseball in Pujols, and Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa.

The 2014 season doesn't look to be much different. The Cardinals are widely considered to be the best team in baseball, and the Cubs are expected to endure another year of rebuilding.

So I encourage Cardinals fans to show Cubs fans some sympathy, and stop the senseless hate of a smaller, weaker foe. Come playoff time, you might have your own Steve Bartman lurking in the bleachers.

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