CARBONDALE – When Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter unloaded a lead-off homerun early on in Game Two of the National League Division Series on Saturday night, a raucous cheer rose all down the table. But Steve Edwards did not stand.
“Oh baby,” one of Edwards’ tablemates yelled, hands thrown in the air.
“There we go,” another said, standing.
Edwards, a lifelong Cubs fan, could only look at his hands and rekindle his resolve.
“I never give up,” he said. “We’re never gonna give up. There’s a lot of baseball left to still play.”
The Cubs would go on to win Game Two, 6-3, evening the series.
In Southern Illinois, state pride and city proximity duke it out. For every Chicago transplant raised on the mantra “There’s always next year,” there’s an equally passionate Cardinals diehard. The rivalry, often spurred by a little light-hearted trash-talking, pits neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, even spouse against spouse.
At Buffalo Wild Wings in Carbondale on Saturday night, Edwards, the head soccer and baseball coach at Popular Bluff High School, kept a watchful eye over 30 teenage soccer players. The team had traveled to Carbondale for a game.
Edwards was surrounded by devotees of Cardinal red. It wasn’t long before the jabs began to fly.
“Who gets the last word?” Edwards asked Bryson Burns, one of his players.
“Well he does because I don’t want to walk home,” joked Burns, 17, gesturing toward his coach. “It’s a little unfair sometimes.”
But when Carpenter launched his bottom-of-the-first homer, Burns and his fellow Cards fans had their chance to cheer.
Across the patio, Jan Stinde and her partner, Bob Ford, were a house divided.
Stinde, sporting Cubbie blue beneath a gray sweatshirt, hails from Chicago. Ford and his son, Chad Allen, bleed Cardinal red. Stinde said the rivalry has been known to cause problems.
“This is the only time we argue,” Stinde said, smiling. “We’ve been together six years.”
Ford said he became a Cards fan when he moved to Illinois from Tennessee. For Stinde, the allegiance lacks logic.
“Why are you for a Missouri team?” she said.
“We’re only 60 miles from St. Louis,” Stinde countered. The couple live in Centralia.
Despite their differences, Ford said Stinde still wears red to support her “second-favorite team” when they’re not up against the Cubs. It’s only these big games that breed some playful tension.
“I’m a Cubs fan,” Stinde said. “I love him, but yeah ….”