Seven months ago, I attended a Detroit Red Wings/St. Louis Blues game at the Scottrade Center, donned in my enemy colors with the Winged Wheel emblazoned on my chest.
To put it kindly, despite St. Louis winning 6-0, the fans were abrasive and even physical with me at times.
So when I returned to St. Louis Saturday night for the Cubs/Cardinals game in a Cubs batting practice jersey at Busch Stadium, it was fair to say I expected the worst.
I got the exact opposite. My trip to Busch Stadium, even taking out the fact that the Cubs won 6-5, was one of the best baseball experiences I've had in my life.
The Yankees/Red Sox rivalry is often touted as the best in baseball, with those out on the West Coast often throwing the Dodgers/Giants feud in to the mix.
Most of the country is pretty sick of Boston/New York, and the San Francisco/Los Angeles rivalry took physicality to the next level last year when Giants fan Brian Stow was brutally beaten by Dodgers fans and spent two years in the hospital.
I've always held that the Cubs/Cardinals tilts should be held up in that discussion, and my experience in section 595 Saturday affirmed my belief.
In the left-center bleachers Saturday night, it was a pretty solid mixture of Cubs and Cardinals fans. There was some good-natured ribbing on each respective fan base by the other, but mostly for laughs and never crossed the line.
As the game went on, I kept listening in to two men sitting behind me. One was a Cub fan and the other a Cardinal fan, and to the best of my knowledge, they'd never met each other before they sat down.
Throughout the game, they chatted it up like the best of friends despite their affiliations. Routinely, they'd place bets with each other, putting a whopping quarter on the line that Starlin Castro would strike out or that Carlos Villanueva could keep the potent Cardinal lineup from scoring in that inning.
It was amazing to see that level of camaraderie between supposed enemies. When the Cubs succeeded, our squadron of fans would cheer, and when Matt Holliday hit each of his two home runs, the Cardinals fans responded with cheers of their own.
But it never got any more heated than that. I've been to Cubs games in cities like Detroit where even after the Tigers defeated the Cubs, the Tigers fans needed to stick the knife in further, taunting on the way out the door.
The experience at Busch was refreshing. Sure, the Cardinal fans would have much preferred the Cubs fans were on their side, but shockingly I only heard one taunt regarding the Cubs' last World Series win.
I was never once bothered about my affiliation and it just reassured what I already knew.
The Cubs and Cardinals have the best rivalry in baseball. It's not because the teams are particularly close in the standings, it's not because the fans are obnoxious and mean-spirited toward one another.
It's because both fanbases can go to a game between the two teams, chat it up like friends in the bleachers and enjoy baseball for the game on the field, not the fights in the stands.