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By Gus Bode

The St. Louis Cardinals have all but punched their tickets into October, leaving the Chicago Cubs and the rest of Central Division in their dust. All Cardinal fans seem to enjoy embarrassing the Cubs in the division race.

Every Cardinal fan can be pleased with the seemingly inevitable playoff appearance, but there is little argument that this season would be more satisfying if the Cubs were closer in contention.

Some Cardinals fans could say, ‘Showing sympathy for the Cubbies? How could you?’ No, it’s not sympathy, but there should be a feeling that something is missing from the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry that separates it from the elite rivalries.

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The story of the Cubs-Cardinals is full of intrigue and thrills, but the chapter about the heart-wrenching twist and the storybook ending has yet to be written.

Complain all you want about how much coverage the Yankees-Red Sox receive every time they play on ESPN, but they have earned the right to have Joe Morgan spout his ‘knowledge’ about them almost every Sunday.

Ask any Yankee or Red Sox fan about their rivalry, and sit and listen to them ramble for hours about the 2003 and 2004 American League Championship Series, Aaron ‘bleeping’ Boone, Bucky Dent and the trade of the Bambino.

Now think about the great moments that have happened throughout the Cubs-Cardinal rivalry. What memories come to you? Think about it for a second. The Lou Brock trade and the 1998 Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase come to mind, as does the five-game series at Wrigley Field Labor Day week 2003. Other than that, there has been a spark missing in the rivalry.

And just a month ago it looked like that would change this season. The teams were tied for first place on Aug. 6, but since then the Cardinals have gone 18-4 while the Cubs have gone 8-14.

As the Cardinals revamped their offense with the additions of Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa and Julio Lugo; Jim Hendry could only watch as the Cubs offense disappeared overnight, Zambrano broke down and everybody got injured.

At least if the Cubs stay in second, one shocking record will finally end.

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‘ The Cubs and Cardinals have never finished 1-2 in the central division since its formation in 1994. While the Yankees and Red Sox have played each other three times in the last 10 years for the right to go to the World Series, the Cardinals-Cubs haven’t met each other in the playoffs in the modern era ‘- going back to the 19th century. No you did not misread that, it’s been more than 100 years.

So as we watch the Cardinals coast their way into the playoffs and Cubs fans drown away their sorrow as they add another year to the 101 and counting, it might be fun to imagine what could have been. Sitting in the bleachers of the friendly confines, sipping your beverage as two great rivals compete to see who would represent the National League in the World Series. The drama would be almost immeasurable.

Oh well, there is always next year!

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