When attendees at NAFCU's annual conference spend Friday afternoon watching the Cardinals-Cubs game, they will see a part of history in the making. The teams compete for loyalty among fans and rich histories that are rife with symbolism.
In his 2005 book on the rivalry-3 Nights In August-Pulitzer Prize-winning author Buzz Bissinger wrote that the rivalry between the teams is "probably the oldest and perhaps the best in baseball, no matter how the Red Sox and Yankees spit and spite at each other."
One team-the Chicago Cubs-is the quintessential symbol of the little guy who keeps trying hard and is lauded for a fighting spirit and for being lovable. Even though the team has gone 102 years without a championship, there are often sell-out crowds at their storied 97-year-old Wrigley Field. It is the second oldest ballpark after Boston's Fenway Park.
Wrigley Field, with its small size (41,160-fan capacity) and ivy covered brick wall harkens back to a simpler time.
Coincidentally, the last time the Cubs won the World Series (their second) was in 1908, the year that the first credit union was chartered in the United States.
But just as credit unions have been trying to revamp their image, so have the Cubs. They were recently sold and brought in a new manager, Lou Pinella, who hopes to reverse the team's fortunes. But they aren't having much luck this year. They are playing below 500 baseball, while the Cardinals have been at or near the top of their division all year.
Even long-time Cubs fans, such as syndicated columnist George Will, contend that the team is operating in the baseball equivalent of an unsafe and unsound manner.?"Some people think it's cute-lovable losers," Will told The Wall Street Journal earlier this year. "I think it's disgusting. I really think protracted mediocrity is not admirable.... The Cubs, I think, have something like $111 million tied up in eight players through 2011. That's not funny, that's malpractice."
By contrast, the St. Louis Cardinals are considered by some to be part of baseball royalty. They have won 10 world championships (the second most behind the New York Yankees' 27). They draw strong crowds at Busch Stadium, but that park is merely four years old and looks a great deal like many other ballparks.
Like the Cubs, the Cardinals also have a tie to credit union history. In 1934, the year Congress passed the Federal Credit Union Act, the Cardinals won the third of their 10 world championships.
For baseball fans, it doesn't get much better than spending a summer afternoon at a storied ballpark watching two rival teams. If the weather is nice, NAFCU attendees may be tempted to quote former Cubs Hall of Fame first baseman Ernie Banks: "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame, let's play two."