Baseball culture clash makes NLCS fun

BY foxsports • October 11, 2011

We can all get on board when there is bad blood involved.

God love bad blood in sports. It’s so fun when teams hate each other.

It adds something. They represent different ways of life, different people, different cultures. They stand for different things, and the winner offers proof of something.

We’ve got the perfect situation in the National League Championship Series: the Milwaukee Brewers vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. Bad blood. Hate.

In one corner, you have a mid-sized, blue collar Midwestern rust belt beer town. And in the other corner, you have a mid-sized, blue collar Midwestern . . . rust . . . beer . . .

What was my point again? Well, Milwaukee is centered around a big, power-hitting first baseman, Prince Fielder, while the Cardinals, um, theirs is named Albert Pujols.

What kind of freaky Midwestern culture war is this, anyway?

When you get to these big sporting events, the mayors or governors are supposed to make bets involving local delicacies. In this case, the only thing I can think of is 10 cases of Budweiser vs. 10 cases of Miller. Come on.

The Cardinals beat the Brewers 12-3 Monday night, bringing the series to a game apiece. Pujols had a home run, three doubles and five RBI.

Fielder merely had a home run. Advantage Budweiser.

Milwaukee center fielder Nyjer Morgan is the center of this feud. He threw tobacco at St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter late in the season. Pujols then helped to lead a charge at Morgan, which led to a bench-clearing pseudo brawl.

Morgan, who calls himself Tony Plush for some reason, then called Pujols “Alberta’’ on Twitter: “Alberta couldn't see Plush if she had her gloves on!!! Wat was she thinking running afta Plush!!! She never been n tha ring!!!’’

And this: “... and I hope those crying birds injoy watching tha Crew in tha Playoffs!!! Aaaaahhhhh!!!’’

The Cardinals reached the playoffs, too. And here they are, facing each other. But it’s not just about Morgan and Pujols. Milwaukee pitcher Zack Greinke mentioned something about how nobody likes Carpenter. And when the Brewers score a run, they do what they call the Beast Mode, a move patterned after the movie Monsters, Inc. The best way to describe it: Raise both arms, hands out in front, in a move to scare kids by pretending you’re a monster.

The Cardinals think the Brewers are bush league, and showing disrespect to the history, codes and unwritten rules of baseball. In fact, they are mocking baseball.

But look, culture wars are supposed to be waged between city and country or dog people and cat people. Or Southerners and people who don’t move their lips when they read. (Kidding.) North and South. You know, as a Chicagoan who once lived in the Deep South of Savannah, Ga., I used to hear that I wasn’t all bad for a Northerner. That was meant as a compliment. Down there, they still call the Civil War the “War of Northern Aggression’’ or the “War for Southern Independence.’’

Now we get the Brewers and the Cardinals? What in the hell?

It’s hard to see what a Midwestern culture war can prove. But the truth is, these teams do have different personalities. The Brewers are the young disrespectful punks. The Cardinals are the establishment, old school and conservative.

“Our attitude is so simple,’’ St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. “We don’t get bogged down with distracting thoughts. Play hard. Compete.’’

The core of the Brewers grew up together and formed their own personality. With the Cardinals, players fit into La Russa’s longstanding, established culture. La Russa and Pujols went to the Glenn Beck rally.

The different styles go right down into Pujols and Fielder, too. Fielder is colorful and might say something strange at any time. Pujols is overly professional.

“He hasn’t changed, no matter his success or how much money he makes,’’ La Russa said. “I think he has a very strong responsibility system. He’s responsible for himself, his family. He’s got a very strong faith, so he’s not going to let any of those people down.’’

Pujols had an excellent year, but not a dream season, as he has had before. And in the first game of the NLCS, he was disappointing, ending a major threat by hitting into a double play.

On Monday, he nearly won the game single-handedly.

“If you watched his batting practice today, he was fine-tuning his stroke,’’ La Russa said. “He really wasn’t trying to hit the ball out of the park. He was just thinking about how he could have better at-bats. He’s such a pro, so smart.’’

Sometimes, baseball people get a little hung up in all their codes. No, at all times they do.

If someone wants to go into beast mode, who cares? Last year, the Texas Rangers were making pretend antlers out of their hands.

It did look a little silly Monday, though, when Rickie Weeks homered in the fourth inning and did the beast thing. The Brewers still were losing 7-2. It was like a football team trailing by four touchdowns and then dancing and celebrating when it finally scores one.

The Brewers are actually nothing like their fans. For the most part, this is a white-picket fence of a town and a state. It is clean and nice. Sometimes too nice.

In fact, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the cultures of St. Louis and Milwaukee even are. But whatever it is, the culture war is now tied one game all.

The Cardinals have been here before, and often. They have won several World Series and are one of baseball’s traditional powers. This Milwaukee franchise has never won the Series.

So this is animated, in-your-face energy vs. stuffy, old-school experience. Take Budweiser in seven games.

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