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Unreal takes back the Big Red, talks to a Steeler, and dances the inaugural night away


In case you haven't noticed, The Arizona "Formerly of St. Louis" Cardinals are thisclose to being Super Bowl XLIII champs. In case you haven't noticed, the Phoenix squad is led by none other than Kurt "Formerly of St. Louis" Warner.

But of course you've noticed. Everybody in town has been yakking about it for nearly a month now, ever since the Cardinals began their improbable march through the NFL postseason.

It's as if we're repossessing what's rightfully ours: St. Louis' team, led by St. Louis' quarterback. And what's wrong with that? (Who cares if everybody outside of Phoenix or St. Louis thinks the Steelers are going to mutilate them? Even better!)

Truth be told, Unreal never has warmed up to the Rams. Sure, we watch 'em, even root for 'em — if it's possible to "root for" a franchise that has, over the past two seasons, posted an aggregate mark of 5 wins and 27 losses and scored 408 points fewer than it has allowed. But in Unreal's world, the Rams remain based in LA and still wear helmets that look cool.

Which, come to think of it, might explain why our parents named us Unreal.

But look: If you scratch the surface of a St. Louis Rams fan over the age of thirty, nine times out of ten you'll find a Big Red fan underneath. And if you do the same to a Rams fan who was breathing the St. Louis air ten years ago, you'll find a Kurt Warner fan.

Sure as the sun rises over the Arch every morning (and sets over Chesterfield).

Steel Hurtin'
Waiting for the Super Bowl in January is an American pastime. When Unreal grew weary of praying to our vintage Kurt Warner Rams jersey and monitoring the over/under, we rang up Pittsburgh Steelers fullback Carey "Fats" Davis, a Florissant native.

Unreal: I like the designated interview time of 4:20 p.m. Anything we should read into this?

Carey Davis: Oh, nah. [Laughs] It's 5:20 p.m. here. I just got in.

You should tell the defensive line to go easy on Kurt Warner.

I don't think, even if I told them — I don't think they would do that.

It was worth a try. Any other St. Louis players we should be aware of? Isn't the Arizona kicker, Neil Rackers, from St. Louis?

Yeah, I went to college with him. I haven't talked to him, though. The last time we talked was after we played each other.

Was playing for the Fighting Illini good preparation for the NFL? It seems like Missouri would have been more your speed.

[Laughs] When I was in college, Missouri wasn't doing too well. Illinois definitely prepared me.

The press materials say you graduated with a degree in Leisure Studies/Sports Management. What is "Leisure Studies"?

[Laughs] The "Leisure Studies" part isn't supposed to be in there. For sports management you learn different things that deal with sports. Things like sports medicine, coaching.

So the Leisure Studies thing doesn't have anything to do with your nickname?

Growing up we all had nicknames. My cousin and my friend made it up.

Now you're in the NFL. You don't have to take that.

It don't bother me. The running-back coach called me that one day, actually. I was like: Where did you hear that?

What's it like blocking for Willie Parker?

It's fun. You have one of the best backs in the league. I always have to be out there.

I know routine is a big deal in preparing for big games. What do you listen to before crunch time?

I go back and forth: T.I., Young Jeezy. It depends on what mood I am in at the time. It's mostly hip-hop and rap.

I also see that you used to be a Little League umpire. Did that make you more empathetic when officials make a call you don't agree with?

Not at all. As an umpire or referee, you're always supposed to be on top of your game. It makes it worse.

Anything you're dying to do once the Super Bowl is over?

Sleep in.

In the meantime, everyone is coming out of the woodwork to get tickets from you.

I got a few people. My phone has been blowing up with text messages and phone calls. But I'm all out of tickets.

Unreal Parties Like It's 1799
Unreal could not help but notice that the number of inaugural parties here last Tuesday night far exceeded that of National Day of Service work sites on Monday. And who are we to complain? So we dreamily perused the list of parties until our eye lit upon this: "Join Dance Discovery in celebrating this historic presidential inauguration in grand style with dances from the 1800s: waltzes, quadrilles."

At first we couldn't see what 19th-century dancing had to do with President Obama, who is a 21st-century sort of guy. But then we remembered an anecdote from our youth about how Abraham Lincoln (Obama's hero) approached his future wife at a dance in Springfield and said, "Miss Todd, I should like to dance with you in the worst way." Punch line, delivered by Mary Todd Lincoln: "And he did!"

We arrived fashionably late at the Monday Club in Webster Groves and immediately realized we were way underdressed. We thought we'd come festively and patriotically attired: jeans, red Obama T-shirt, maroon Chucks. We saw women in hoop skirts and bustles and Empire dresses, men in knee breeches and tricorn hats and swallowtail coats and spats. (We saw more modern duds, too, but even these were spiffier than ours.)

Dan Klarmann sported a short stovepipe-ish hat that he told us he'd found at a yard sale. Encouraged by this confession, we asked how he got his mustache to turn up at the corners so jauntily. "Well," he said, "I was in a made-for-TV movie in 1998. I was playing a French gentleman, and they suggested I curl my mustache like this. I guess I have a naturally curly face."

"Hoop skirts are a pain in the tushy," confided Elsa Hirzel, after we expressed our admiration of her yellow gown. (Said gown also prevented us from getting within three feet of her.) "When you wear one, you can't lift your arms past your shoulders. I've heard that Queen Victoria invented these dresses because she didn't like her daughters reaching for tea."

Hirzel and many of the other women had made their dresses themselves. "Wow," we said. (We said that a lot.)

As attendees whirled their way through "Jefferson and Liberty" (some more gracefully than others), Dance Discovery treasurer Martin Aubuchon told us that the group was founded in 2004 by local English contra dance enthusiasts to help celebrate the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Over the years they've branched out into the colonial and Civil War periods and have performed at various area events that call for historical dancing.

There are a lot more of these than Unreal had previously imagined.

"You should join us!" Aubuchon enthused as we gathered up our notebook and prepared to move on to our own celebration, which would involve less dancing but more alcohol.

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