Cardinals always rule in St. Louis

Rams are hosting MNF, but it's no competition against World Series Game 5

Originally Published: October 28, 2013
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

ST. LOUIS -- Even if Brett Favre had come out of retirement to play for the Rams, he probably would skip tonight's "Monday Night Football" game for the sporting event St. Louis fans consider far more important.

"He'd be at the World Series,'' St. Louis native Bob Frischmann speculated. "He might even be throwing out the first pitch to the World Series.''

Tonight marks a rare sporting convergence, with St. Louis hosting Game 5 of the World Series between the hometown Cardinals and Boston Red Sox as well as the "Monday Night Football" game between the hometown Rams and Seattle Seahawks. There is no question, though, which game St. Louis fans care about most. There is so little demand for the MNF game that a scalper told me tickets are going for $5 while World Series tickets are going for about $500.

[+] EnlargeStan Musial
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallA majestic statue of Cardinals great Stan Musial stands outside of Busch Stadium.
"Baseball is what it's all about here,'' the scalper said. "The Rams lost their starting quarterback [Sam Bradford], and they're having a bad season. Why would you want to go? Especially when you've got a World Series team here.''

One fan guessed 80 percent of local TVs will be tuned to the World Series and 2 percent to the Rams game. And the remaining 18 percent? "I don't know what reality shows are on Monday night.''

The reality is St. Louis is a baseball city, perhaps the strongest in the country. Despite playing in one of baseball's smallest markets, the St. Louis Cardinals have drawn more than three million fans a season for the past decade. And for good reason. Only the New York Yankees have won more World Series than St. Louis, and no team has played in the World Series more often this century than the Cardinals (2004, 2006, 2011, 2013).

"It's different in St. Louis,'' Joe Niblock said. "We're a Midwestern city, a small market and this is our pride. We can stand up to New York and L.A. and Chicago and say, 'Hey, look! We have a winning baseball team.'''

As Frischmann said, the Rams have been in St. Louis only since 1995 while the Cardinals have been here more than 120 years. "It just became ingrained in St. Louis, that if you lived here and grew up here, you're a Cardinal fan.''

Which is not to say that no one is going to the "Monday Night Football" game. As I walked by the dome Sunday, a car full of football fans pulled out of a nearby hotel parking lot. They had two Seahawks flags flapping from the car windows, each wore the vibrant green Seahawk colors, and the guy riding shotgun wore a white Jason Voorhees hockey mask over his face.

As you would expect on a Cardinals World Series game day, fans in Rams gear were a little scarce. Wandering around Sunday, I counted eight fans wearing Rams caps or jerseys and seven of those were from California or Boston. I didn't get a chance to ask where the eighth was from because he disappeared into a sea of red outside Busch Stadium.

Busch Stadium is a welcoming park even when there isn't a World Series being played. There are numerous bronze statues outside of such former Cardinals players as Rogers Hornsby and Bob Gibson, along with a larger-than-life statue of Stan Musial, plus a bust of broadcaster Jack Buck with a continuous loop playing his most famous calls. The street bordering the right-field line is Stan Musial Drive.

There is no such obvious homage paid to former St. Louis Rams players outside the Edward Jones Dome. For that matter, there is little obvious evidence that football is played there. Aside from some player advertisements, the most conspicuous NFL presence is a sign listing the league's prohibited items, including such dangerous objects as balloons, purses, thermoses, bells, confetti, glitter, mini footballs and peanuts in the shell. There also is a black silhouette of a man with his arms raised in the "proper screening position.''

[+] EnlargeEdward Jones Dome
Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty ImagesBased on stadium capacity, the Rams have the second-lowest home attendance in the NFL.
"Where's Marshall Faulk Way? Where's Kurt Warner Way?'' asked Scott Bayliss, who traveled from San Francisco for the Rams game. "I mean, c'mon -- Super Bowl rings are hard to come by.''

"It is a shame that they haven't honored [former players], even going back to the Los Angeles Rams,'' Niblock said. "Put something out there. Build your own tradition. Ignore the guys down the street. Do your own thing and build it up slowly. They had mega-success. They had one of the best offenses in the history of the NFL in 'The Greatest Show on Turf' days.''

Times have changed considerably, though, since the Rams appeared in two of three Super Bowls from 2000-02. "The Rams are maybe even third fiddle now because the Blues are starting back up and hockey is going and they're playing well,'' Niblock said. "I don't know what the Rams are going to have to do. Those marketing people have their work cut out for them.''

Well, they're trying. The Rams will show the World Series on the stadium video board before the game tonight and during halftime as well. Of course, if they really wanted to draw a crowd in St. Louis, they should simply show the World Series during the entire MNF game.

Despite the absence of Rams gear, I did meet several St. Louis fans in Cardinals jerseys who had tickets for the MNF game, including some with tickets to both. One fan said he planned to tailgate before the football game, then go to the World Series until the Cardinals had a safe 10-0 lead, then go back to the football game to watch the Rams beat the Seahawks.

That's another thing about St. Louis fans. They're optimists.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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