Some players are born to play the role of the villain.
And then there's Kris Bryant, the accidental villain of the 127-year Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.
If you could choose one Cubs player opposing fans would least likely hate, it would probably be the mild-mannered Bryant, who is to politeness what Barry Bonds was to PEDs.
As far as we know, Bryant doesn't drink, curse or flip his bat, making him an anomaly of this generation of ballplayers. He's basically the Tom Hanks of the Cubs.
But Bryant never will be able to live down his off-the-cuff quip at the Cubs Convention by saying St. Louis is "boring," igniting the the kind of "forever beef" that White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said he now has with the Royals.
Some 4 1/2 months later, with St. Louis gripped in Stanley Cup fever, Cardinals fans have let Bryant know what they thought of his travel critique.
So they booed Bryant all Friday night, with the volume increasing as the game wore on and the sellout crowd became more lubricated. And Saturday night started the same way.
After the Cardinals won in extra innings Friday, Bryant met the media with a look of exasperation, knowing he'd have to talk about something he thought was over in spring training.
"It's never going to be done," he admitted. "I get that. But there are only so many times I can answer questions on it. So hammer away. Whaddya got?"
Bryant's teammates added to the narrative Friday, joining in on the booing.
A couple of hours before Friday's game, a Cubs player said to pay close attention to the dugout when Bryant came to the plate for something "very special." Sure enough, as the crowd began booing Bryant in the first inning, the Cubs began jeering and giving him the thumbs down.
"Everyone was in on it," said Kyle Schwarber, who gave Bryant two big thumbs down as though he were auditioning for a reboot of "Siskel & Ebert." "Even the bullpen I think was in on it. He was in on it too. He knew. He just didn't want to pay attention to it."
Bryant said afterward he found the Cubs' response hilarious, though he pretended not to notice while at the plate.
"I tried to make it a point, I wanted to look and see who all was doing it," he said. "We were just having fun with it."
The alleged perpetrator, manager Joe Maddon confirmed, was Anthony Rizzo, who seemed to relish making the better half of "Bryzzo" feel as uncomfortable as possible.
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"I was all for it," Maddon said of Rizzo's plan. "I don't think I've ever roundly booed one of my own guys before, so I checked that off the list."
St. Louis is a proud town that doesn't take kindly to insults from strangers, even though most who say they're from St. Louis live in the suburbs.
They've been ditched by two NFL teams and one NBA team, so it makes sense they're a little touchy about these things.
While catcher Yadier Molina in January ripped Bryant for the comment on social media, it wasn't really a topic of discussion again until the Cubs came to town this weekend. Bryant said none of the Cardinals players joked with him about it.
"They were all really cool," he said. "We weren't even talking about that. I like the guys over there. They're good people."
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt seemed to take the matter a little more seriously than Maddon, defending his town against Bryant's flippant remark.
"I don't know if he needs to get into the disparaging of our city, especially one that has a lot of civic pride and does a lot of good things for itself," Shildt said. "But everybody's got their own reality, and I surely couldn't get into his. Ultimately ... it's a fun thing and it's an exciting thing, but at the end of the day it's about the competition on the field."
The reality is Bryant was joking, and everyone needs to lighten up. It's a classic rivalry, and Bryant only added a chapter.
Schwarber said Saturday that the Cubs didn't plan to boo Bryant again, calling it a "one-time thing" to make Bryant laugh.
"Keep it loose," Schwarber said. "Have fun with it."
But now that Bryant has been branded, he could take a lesson from A.J. Pierzynski, the role model of all baseball villains, who never shied from getting on people's nerves.
"If you play against him, you hate him," former Sox manager Ozzie Guillen once said of Pierzynski. "If you play with him, you hate him a little less."
Obviously Bryant is the antithesis of Pierzynski, which is why it's so ironic he put himself into this sticky situation with the help of provocateur Ryan Dempster.
Whether Bryant is tired of the story, Maddon hopes Cardinals fans keep it up.
"I would hope it sustains itself for a bit," Maddon said before Saturday's game. "We thought it was kind of funny (Friday). I thought the way we dealt with it was perfect.
"It's KB. KB doesn't interfere with anybody. Of all people ... that's why it's so funny."