By Allison Donofrio, Staff Writer
Before November 2, 2016, when the Chicago Cubs broke their 108-year World Series drought, it was difficult to be a Cubs fan in a St. Louis Cardinals world. If I wore anything Cubs related in Carrier Mills, Ill., I would get stares and scuffs. People would ask “why are you a Cubs fan when we are 2 hours from Busch Stadium?” To them, it’s only logical to support the closest team. Therefore, the majority of baseball fans in Southern Illinois root for the Cardinals.
However, I was born and raised in Downers Grove, a Chicago suburb. Even in Downers Grove, not everyone was overly supportive of the Chicago Cubs. When the Cubs were champions of the National League Central Division in 2008 after defeating the Cardinals 5-4, Chicago White Sox fans were cruel when I wore a Cubs shirt in middle school. One boy even told me he would hurt me if I wore the shirt again. I wasn’t sure how serious he was, so I didn’t wear the shirt too often after that, even though I wanted to celebrate the Cubs’ success. As a Cubs fan, I was used to being the ‘odd man out.’ However, the situation got even worse after I moved from Downers Grove in 2010.
In Carrier Mills, Cardinal red dominates the public, while Cub blue is nearly non-existent in the area. At Walmart, there is a huge section of St. Louis Cardinals merchandise, with barley any Cubs’ merchandise, even after last year’s World Series win. I saw countless pictures of merchandise being sold in Chicago, but there was nothing to be found in Southern Illinois.
On June 28, 2015, I saw the Cubs play the Cardinals in person with my sister. When we arrived at Busch Stadium, there was much more red than blue. One man even went up to us and said, “What are you doing here? This is our territory!” and continued to belittle us for being Cubs fans. I knew that there was a large rivalry between the teams, but I wasn’t expecting to be treated this poorly by Cardinals fans.
Sadly, there was a rain delay that lasted over an hour, and we left the game during the 6th inning. Since we weren’t sure if Cardinals fans were going to be that harsh again, we decided it would be best to not see the last innings, regardless of the outcome. The Cardinals fans in Southern Illinois were not as aggressive as the fans at Busch Stadium. When Cardinals fans at Busch noticed my Cubs gear, they often sent glances my way.
Before the 2016 playoffs, the Cubs were known as chokers, and were cursed. The curse was placed in 1945, when William Sianis brought his Billy Goat to game 4 of the World Series. When Sianis, along with his goat, was asked to leave Wrigley Field due to the goat’s scent, he declared that the Chicago Cubs were cursed. As time wore on, I started to believe that the Billy Goat curse was real. I was unsure if the Cubs would ever be World Series Champions again. We always came close, but ended up losing in the playoffs. Despite this, I was still proud to say I was a Chicago Cubs fan.
Following the Cubs 103-win regular season last year, there were several more fans in the public during the playoffs. However, I remember conversing with a Cardinals fan in Harrisburg, Ill. who was surprised at how far we came. He gave us credit, but thought we would choke during the playoffs, like we always did. However, last year was different because of Joe Maddon’s coaching methods and the Cubs ‘never die’ mentality, which allowed them to rally from a three-games-to-one deficit against the Cleveland Indians in last year’s World Series.
In all fairness, I have never been to Wrigley Field, so I cannot attest to how Cubs fans treat Cardinals fans in Chicago. There will always be a rivalry between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, which is understandable. What matters most is that both teams are excellent in their own ways. I have respect for the Cardinals, and all they have accomplished so far. This baseball season will be fun to watch because every team will take aim at the 2016 World-Champion Chicago Cubs. I look forward to the Cubs next series against the Cardinals on May 12-14, as well as the rest of the season.