Could the NL Season have any better or worse ending for the Brewers than facing St. Louis in the National League Championship Series? Between 1982 to the last few insufferable seasons of Pujols and Larussa, if the Brewers head to the World Series it will be as sweet a victory as I have ever been privy to seeing. If the Brewers lose, though, it will begin a long, dark offseason.
Of course these two teams have history. This will be the first time they have met in the playoffs since 1982, a year from Brewers lore. But what about it? Does it mean anything to anyone other than the fans? You have to imagine that the Brewers and Cardinals players don't have much emotional investment in that year. Many of the players weren't even born at that point and, even if they were, maybe only a very small few actually was a fan of one of the two teams growing up. Craig Counsell probably was, but he's the only one I can think of on the Brewers. But everyone else? They are obviously aware and also seem, quite frankly, kind of sick of it.
In the short post-game interview with Ryan Braun after last night's game he acknowledged 1982 but was quick to say that he's hoping this team will be starting their own legacy.
After work last night, I called my dad to talk about the game and the upcoming series. Eventually, we both got to our reasons for disliking the Cardinals. While my reasoning comes entirely from the last few years antics, my dad has none of those feelings. No, for him, he has hated the Cardinals ever since that 1982 world series. He hasn't had the time to pay close attention to the rivalry that has developed more recently, but even if he had, losing in 1982 would trump those feelings. I suspect that any readers of this site who were around for the 1982 World Series have elements of both 1982 and the recent rivalry fueling their desire to see the Brewers beat the Cardinals.
I wasn't around for 1982. It would be nearly a decade and a half later that I would even become cognizant of the Brewers existence. I don't have any particular feelings about that World Series. I don't have many feelings about the 1987 Brewers. I don't have any feelings about the Milwaukee Braves. I don't even have any memories of the American League Brewers. I have pride in all these things, but it's hard for me to by overly happy or disappointed about any Brewers season that I wasn't around for.
Like Ryan Braun, I--as a fan--am hoping to see the start of a new legacy. Since I was born, I've lived through the worst Brewers decade in their history. I cheered for them during their resurgence. I saw their first playoff appearance in 25 years. Now, I'm seeing them in a position where they could very possibly climb to the top of the MLB.
What we've been hearing throughout all of those years is 1982. Everything is compared to that year. Every great Brewers player is compared to Robin Yount. The "ghosts" of the not-dead Yount, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas, Ted Simmons, et al. have been hanging over the Brewers heads since they returned to baseball relevance.
Now, though, it's 2011. The Brewers have won just as many playoff series' this year as they did in 1982. Ryan Braun isn't the next Robin Yount. He's Ryan Braun and is on his way toward becoming the best Brewer of all time. We have Prince Fielder, not Paul Molitor. We have Corey Hart and Nyjer Morgan and Rickie Weeks. For better or worse, we have Yuniesky Betancourt. And, though the 1982 Brewers won a pennant, their season ultimately ended in a loss. This year's Brewers can very well end their year with the biggest win they could possibly hope for.
It's a new era for the Brewers. It's not 1982 anymore. These players have no affiliation to the 1982 Brewers. The current Cardinals have no affiliation to the 1982 Cardinals. Ryan Braun is right, the Brewers are overdue for a new legacy.