ST. LOUIS — Look, Jeremy Kirsch seems like a nice enough guy.
“I really don’t like the word ‘hate,’ ” the 33-year-old St. Louisan and Blues season-ticket holder said here Monday morning.
See? A fine fellow and a real gentleman.
Kirsch stood in a light rain outside Busch Stadium, site of the Winter Classic game against the rival Blackhawks, wearing a billed Blues cap under a knit Blues winter hat — the latter festooned with shredded beanie fabric in the shape of a mohawk and white wool that extended down the sides of his face like mutton-chop sideburns.
“But I hate the Blackhawks,” he went on. “Probably the only time I’ll use the word ‘hate’ is with the Blackhawks.”
OK, so the guy’s a tiny bit nuts.
Yet can you blame him? This city has been waiting since 1967 — the year the Blues began NHL play — for a Stanley Cup championship. The Blues reached the Finals, only to be swept in four games, in each of their first three seasons. Since then, it has been pretty much bupkis for this close-but-not-really franchise.
Meanwhile, the flippin’ Hawks have gone all three-titles-in-six years on everybody.
“I’d be lying if I said I’m not jealous that they have three Cups and we have zero,” 33-year-old fan Jeff Weinacht said before the Blues’ 4-1 victory. “I have a bunch of friends from Chicago and hear their crap all the time. I hate the Hawks.”
There appears to be a developing theme here.
It isn’t lost on most Blues fans that, for years now, they’ve essentially been the Cubs to the Hawks’ 11-time World Series-winning Cardinals. Except that the actual Cubs now have a championship of their own (perhaps you’d heard) and have attained celebrity status that no Cardinals team ever could even dream of, taking the one thing St. Louis fans were able to lord over their northerly counterparts — baseball eminence — and drop-kicking it into the Mississippi River.
If the Hawks are better than the Blues and the Cubs are better than the Cardinals, what do pro sports fans here have to hang their hats on? The only thing that comes to mind is the possibility that it’s better to have lost the Rams to Los Angeles than to be stuck with the Bears.
Hmm, we’ll have to think about that one awhile.
Jeff Drese, 53 and a diehard fan of the Blues since he was a boy, actually was heartened by the Cubs’ World Series win.
“When the Cubs won, I was able to kind of picture what it would be like if we won the Cup,” he said. “I was glad they won because, I figured, 108 years was long enough. Hopefully, it’s not going to be 108 years for the Blues. Hopefully, it happens in my lifetime.”
Isn’t it amazing that Cubs fans don’t have to say stuff like that anymore? Of course, it once was like that for Hawks fans, too; they didn’t see a title from 1961 until 2010.
Rapper Nelly, one of this city’s favorite sons, says entertainers from St. Louis and Chicago are like “brothers.”
“I’m real cool with (Kanye West) and Twista and everybody up there from Chicago,” Nelly told the Sun-Times after performing outside the stadium before the game. “But when it comes to sports, it’s the exact opposite.”
Yet even Nelly, a dyed-in-the-wool Cardinals fan, saw some good in the Cubs’ autumn glory.
“I wasn’t totally bummed out that the Cubs won,” he said, “because it can’t be a rivalry if one side never wins anything. You know what I’m saying? We’ve had the weakest rivalry ever, because they (never won).”
Only, now the Cubs have. Like the Hawks — three times in six years — before them.
The Blues won Monday’s outdoor battle — and, yes, they eliminated the Hawks from last year’s playoffs — yet here the Hawks are again, leading the Western Conference in points while the Blues are tied for fifth.
It’s plain to see one team is closer to Cup No. 4 than the other is to Cup No. 1.
Whether fans here hate it or not.
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.