ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Let me first say that last Sunday (Oct. 1) was a terrific day for St. Louis sports. No, the Cardinals weren’t in playoff contention. The Blues weren’t even playing a meaningful game yet. And we all know the NFL turned their back on us.
Yet, Busch Stadium was at near capacity, exceeding 3.4 million in attendance for the season. At the same time, just six blocks north on Clark Street, Scottrade Center had a larger-than-normal crowd for an NHL preseason game: Blues-Capitals.
That’s not to mention the sold-out Gateway Motorsports Park just five minutes to the east, overflowing with fans on a beautiful day for the NHRA Midwest Nationals.
Yes, in a span of less than seven miles, three major sports venues simultaneously entertained thousands of fans. That’s impressive — and often overlooked.
St. Louis is a great city with passionate residents, no matter where in the metro area you call home. Too often, though, we fall into an inferiority complex (Amazon wouldn’t build a headquarters here, we can’t get an MLS team here, lack of NFL makes us weak, etc.) and we forget how good we are. I’m sorry, but we’re really good. And when our teams play at a championship level, we’re spectacular.
Quick hits for this weekend:
-The Blues open their home schedule on Saturday night at Scottrade Center (Amazon Arena?) against the Dallas Stars. It’s a delicious matchup between two Western Conference combatants and former Blues coach Ken Hitchcock behind the Stars bench. The Blues’ young players received an incredible boost of confidence Wednesday with an Opening Night win in Pittsburgh, 5-4 in overtime under the Penguins’ new Stanley Cup banner. No, they didn’t play their best game, but the Blues showed resiliency and put up a five-spot on perhaps the best team in hockey. And most important, they did it with five players sidelined with injuries and new opportunities abound for players like Tage Thompson and Vince Dunn. What a reinforcement for the veteran players that they can hold down the fort until Alexander Steen (hand) and Jay Bouwmeester (ankle) can return. The Blues have obviously improved their speed and aggressiveness on offense, especially when they have defensemen join the rush. Jake Allen is capable of making dramatic saves to bail them out if something breaks down, but the brand of hockey is exciting. (Also: Brayden Schenn >>>>> Jori Lehtera.) It’s only one game, but it’s a good look.
-If you watch the MLB Postseason, keep an eye on the impact bats, making a difference. Jose Altuve hit three home runs in the Astros’ Game 1 victory over the Red Sox. The Cubs and Nationals are loaded with MVP-caliber offense. The Cardinals desire one of those bats, maybe two. When John Mozeliak mentioned this week that he didn’t see anyone stand out in a talented lineup, it came off to some fans as a slap to Tommy Pham. I get why people would feel that way; Tommy was incredibly impactful and basically saved the season. He put the Cards in playoff contention with his numbers (.306, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 25 SB) and led the team in numerous offensive categories. Pham far and away exceeded any expectations – heck, he didn’t even make the team out of spring training! But what Mozeliak was trying to say was that the club needs to spend its resources on a player who can change the entire lineup. Someone who comes in with All-Star, MVP-like expectations. It wouldn’t be fair to Pham to have that on his shoulders next season. Pham, assuming he’s here in 2018, needs help. The Cardinals need some offensive firepower. It’s time to go after the biggest names (hello, Giancarlo Stanton) and see what is possible.
-Before we write off the Missouri football season, I’d like to see how Barry Odom’s team responds after a bye week. The Tigers visit Kentucky on Saturday night. I’m not going to call it a winnable game, not based on what I’ve seen from Mizzou this season. But it has the potential for a shootout… if the Tigers can play a lick of defense. From Missouri State’s opening drive on September 2, it has been pretty embarrassing. Executing assignments and displaying fundamentally sound tackling should be the order of business in Lexington… then let the offense put together some drives.