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As I sat reading Buzz Bissinger and Tony La Russa’s 3 Nights in August I began thinking of the phenomenon that is Cardinals Nation. Growing up, you hear those familiar questions: Where were you when JFK was shot? (not born yet) or when 9/11 happened (getting ready for my Anthropology class in college). We, the Cardinal Nation have different questions, and not just the familiar “Where’d you go to high school?” (Fort Zumwalt South). Our questions deal with the team we have come to worship. Where were you when Mark McGwire hit number 62? (sitting in my family room with my parents). The question that got me started on this little rant was “Where were you when Daryl Kyle died?” I remember this one vividly. I was at work at the time, and a coworker came and told me. I was shocked and saddened, but what I saw was something else. What I saw was just how deep the Cardinal Nation feeling really goes. If you would have talked, or even looked, at my coworker you would think a close relative died. I remember him calling his wife and telling her. That’s when I realized how deep Cardinal blood runs. Two tragedies happened that week, with the passing of DK and Jack Buck. People talk about how united the country was after 9/11, but I say, there is nothing like the unison that comes about through the Cardinal Nation, whether it be the deaths of two legends or taking a trip to the World Series. United we stand, but there is no dividing us. We are Cardinals fans.

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The time is approaching. You can hear it swimming through the air. Closer and closer. You hear a crack. A sound so familiar, but you can’t quite figure out where you’ve heard it before.

Time passes. The trees are bare. Then the noises get louder. This time the crack is accompanied by a thud. It sounds like a broom beating on an old rug. Again, it is a recognizable sound, but you still can’t figure out where and when you first heard it.

Time passes and snow covers the ground. The noise comes back, and this time, every one of your senses is bombarded by blurry visions, sounds, and smells.

The snow melts. The smells get stronger. You know what that smell is. It is a smell that you recognize as one of your first childhood memories. Visions of sunny days fill your mind. The sounds are back, and this time, you recognize them. You close your eyes and live in the moment. You look around. There are people everywhere. You smell stale beer. The kind of smell that could only come from years and years of spilt beer staining concrete. But this is not a bad thing. It reminds you of all the good times you’ve had, and the great ones to come. The noise is deafening. You hear people cheering. You hear loudspeakers, cracks, and thuds. A new smell comes over you. You inhale. When you do, memories of watching your dad cut the grass when you were little float forward. Yes, the smell of freshly cut grass overpowers the stale beer smell. Now the musty smell of wet dirt travels through the air to where you are. The loudspeaker explodes with sound. You hear names being called. People cheer. You feel like you are there. At that moment. At that place.

Time passes. The grass turns green. All those wonderful smells, visions, and noises come back. This time they are as strong as ever. It is time. You don’t have to imagine anymore.

The day comes. You stand in line, smiling. You talk with other people enthusiastically. You talk about how this is the year. You never give up hope. Neither do they. For all your differences, this is the one thing you have in common. The one thing that binds you, and fifty-thousand other people in the vicinity, together. Nothing can taint this feeling. Not talks of financial problems or drug problems. This is the perfect moment. You walk in. Your heart beats swiftly. You hear the loudspeaker. You hear those familiar names. This time it is real. You smell the great smells of stale beer, cut grass, and wet dirt. You hear cheering. You see the color that dominates the town. The color you are wearing on this day, at this moment. People continue to cheer. Thud! That?s all right. Everyone knows to lay off the first one. Then you hear it. CRACK! A line drive base hit. And the season is under way. What a great one it will be.

Dedicated to Baseball, and those that made it great. The ones that are alive in person, and those that are alive in our memories.