Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Blowing on the Ashes

When I first started watching professional football, the St. Louis Cardinals were my favorite team. Red was my favorite color. I loved their avian namesakes, so bright amid even the dreariest weather of winter. And I was captivated by their style of play, which emphasized exciting offense, although I later learned that it's usually defense that wins games. But by the time I was my daughter's age, ten or so, the Cardinals had begun their decline, in step with the waning of my devotion, from an ill-starred but playoff-caliber team to a franchise that many deemed cursed

A decade later, when they moved to Arizona, my childhood affection for the team seemed very remote. Still, I continued to follow the last marquee player from the years of my fandom, O. J. Anderson, with interest, rooting for him as he revived his career with the New York Giants, winning the Super Bowl MVP award the year they beat the Bills, because doing so was a way of paying my respects to a first love. Now two decades more have passed. I live in the state of Arizona which, for all of its natural beauty, is a place that makes me overheat, whether with anger or just heat. Because I read the "Sports" section of the Tucson and Phoenix papers, I have paid attention to the Cardinals fortunes even though I thought every ember of my affection for the team had long since been extinguished.

I was rooting hard for the Eagles today. Circumstances made it impossible for me to watch much of the game, but I kept tabs on the score while sitting at the computer. As Philadelphia started coming back from a 24-6 halftime deficit, I found it harder to resist the television. Finally, when it was time for a break anyway, I sat myself down in front of the computer midway through the fourth quarter to watch the remainder of the contest. That's when a strange thing happened. Although I continued to pull for the Eagles in general and Donovan McNabb in particular -- he attended my father's alma mater, Syracuse -- I began to have body memories of my love for the Cardinals' logo and bright red uniforms.

When I was seven, I wanted a St. Louis jersey so badly I could practically feel its oddly substantial weight and the strange smell of the paint for the letters and numbers -- preferably those of my favorite player, the team's all-purpose wonder Terry Metcalf -- without ever trying one on. Today, oddly, I discovered that my childhood dream was like a campfire which, hours after it appeared to be out, unexpectedly flickers back to fragile life for a moment or two. I'm not happy the Cardinals won. Hell, I don't even consider them to be the same team I loved. But I am strangely pleased that their long-suffering uniform will finally appear in the Super Bowl.
Tags: autobiography, nostalgia, sports

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