When St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley was asked his opinion on a cheer used by Atlanta Braves fans, he unloaded. Game 5 will be the first chance to see how the fans – and Helsley – will react.
On Friday, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Derrick Goold asked St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Ryan Helsley, who is one-quarter Cherokee, his opinion of the Tomahawk chop, a cheer used by Atlanta Braves fans which he had witnessed the night before. Helsley heavily criticized the chant in his extensive comments.
(Readers can read the comments for themselves here in paragraphs four and five of Goold’s article.)
The Tomahawk chop cheer is the centerpiece of an entire meme-culture for Braves rooters. For example, the FanSided blog is called Tomahawk Take and a popular podcast on iTunes is called Talking Chop. The chant is used especially when the Braves are batting to simulate a war-like attack mode.
The controversy about “the Chop” will no doubt be taken up during the off-season. The question now is how will this affect Game 5. Helsley has been one of the Cardinals’ most effective relievers in postseason play. He has pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless relief with one hit and three strikeouts but he has not appeared yet in Atlanta since the comments.
Would Mike Shildt be less likely to throw his young hurler into the pressure soup of possibly pitching with chant-on? Or more likely?? If you asked him, I am sure he would say, “no difference.” But we all know that it is win-or-go-home for his team.
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Tensions between the Cardinals and the Braves have already heated up because of brouhahas involving the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina and Carlos Martinez and the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. and Billy Hamilton.
Veteran Cardinal fans are comparing this game to another famous elimination game in Cardinal history: the finale of the 1985 World Series when tensions finally blew a gasket with Joaquin Andujar on the mound. (Watch the video here).
The fact that Helsley will be stepping into Sun Trust Park in a high tension situation when the Braves are on offense, and the chant is usually in play, is likely to only add to the tension.
Braves fans will be aware of the controversy because it was raised during the broadcast of NLDS Game 4 by Ron Darling who is the color commentator for national baseball coverage on TBS. Darling was born in Hawaii to a Hawaiian-Chinese mother.
Twitter is alight with discussion about it, with hundreds of comments at last check. One of Goold’s tweets about it carried the hashtag used by Braves fans to root for their team: #Braves. Cardinals fans are concerned also:
Unfortunately, Mr. Lore, that did not happen. Helsley now must travel to Atlanta.
Observers of Game 5 will want to note if Braves fans perform the chant with Helsley on the mound. If the chant proceeds as normal will it be a “factor?”
We may never know. The supposed “Crowd Factor,” i.e. whether a home team’s crowd’s enthusiasm really affects a team’s morale is hard to prove. And, on the other side, we cannot know what is in Helsley’s head while he is pitching.
But if Helsley is called upon to pitch and is successful, and the Cardinals win, some will no doubt take to Twitter and say he won it for his tribe and beating the Braves fans was a motivating factor. If on the other hand he does not pitch well amid Tomahawk chop chanting, and the Cardinals lose, the opposite conclusion will be drawn.
Braves fans will be criticized if they choose to chant with Helsley on the mound. But even if they don’t, the controversy will be looming in the background. And an entire game with zero Tomahawk chants seems unlikely.
This all may be a big nothingburger. Or it may be a factor. And “which way” it will be a factor is anyone’s guess. But when two teams like the Cardinals and the Braves are playing each other this close … it must be considered. And no Redbird Rants readers should be surprised if the subject of Helsley’s comments comes up. Forewarned is forearmed.