I have always loved sports. I grew up playing them, in the backyard and officially organized. I grew up watching them, in a seat at games or glued to the TV, screaming and cheering in both instances. I am forever loyal to my teams, even when they’re at the bottom. I have lived in San Diego over 10 years, and you can ask any San Diego sports fans I’ve encountered how deep my loyalty runs. A season where the Chiefs finished 2-14, I was at Qualcomm in my red shirt rooting my team on, even though they seriously had no chance. Boy, did they stink that year, sort of like this year. I may get frustrated when my teams don’t do well, and I may be a little morose over losses, but I still love them. I get very into games and am very passionate, to the point I may alarm the people who are watching games with me. “Don’t worry about me, I’m just over here having a heart attack and needing an IV drip!”
Basketball, baseball, football. . . They make me bleed crimson and blue. Kansas Jayhawks (red and blue), Kansas City Royals (blue), and Kansas City Chiefs (red). I got lucky that all of my teams’ colors coordinate so well. (Those parentheses are for those readers who don’t pay attention to sports and wouldn’t know one team’s mascot or colors from another’s.) I think the first sport I played as a child, and in fact went to a game for, was baseball. I grew up in rural Kansas about an hour and a half south of Kansas City. My Dad was always outside playing catch with us and hitting us grounders. My brother and I played many World Series games in the backyard, where we had our own baseball field. Don’t imagine anything too fancy, this wasn’t Iowa, after all, and a field of dreams, but we had an official backstop with a home plate and a pitching mound, with random things used for the other bases.
Trips to Kauffman Stadium were a treat and a family outing full of fun and pride and stadium snacks! When we didn’t attend a Royals game, we were at home watching them, originally having to go outside and rotate the antenna until the channel wasn’t so fuzzy, then later (when I was in high school), finally on a fancy dish type gadget. When there wasn’t a televised game, we always listened on the radio. My Dad kept a radio by the chair in the living room just for the occasion (and KU basketball games).
Even going away to college in Iowa, moving to Florida, and then finally out to San Diego, I never lost my love and devotion for my teams, even the Royals, after years, and years. . . and years of, well, nothing. I don’t even know if disappointment is the proper word. After the 1980s and early 1990s, it was just a given they’d be at the bottom. You rooted for them, you watched games, but that was that. There were no expectations, sadly. I could never really be mad at them, honestly, because they were so consistently bad it just didn’t matter. Unlike watching KU consistently be good and a contender, only to lose early in the NCAA tournament (except for 2008!), or the Chiefs who had good years and would make the playoffs but to never get a win while there. Those have been frustrating and disappointing.
The Royals not so much. They were just the poor, lowly Royals, basically a farming system for the large market, rich teams. How can you be mad at a team whose owner never put money back into them to even give them a chance? So, as an adult I would cheer them on and wear my Royals shirt, always getting that weird look that would imply, “Why would you be a Royals fan?” The best change in the MLB was when they added to Inter-League play by letting different divisions play against each other. Suddenly, the Royals were coming to San Diego! Who was there in her Royals shirt rooting them on as a they usually lost? That’s right, this girl. I will admit that since moving to San Diego, I frequent Padres games. I love baseball, it’s just fun to go to games, and because the Padres are National League, I’ve never thought it was being disloyal to root for them and own a shirt. However, when the Royals come to town, that blue shirt has always been proudly worn into Petco Stadium. Anaheim is about an hour from where I live, and trips to see the Royals play the Angels have been fun. And Angels Stadium is great, not a bad seat in the house! I finally got to attend a game at Kauffman this summer while I was visiting home. Sometimes I don’t make it back during baseball season, and the few times I’d been back during it they had been out of town, so it had been years since I had been to Kauffman. It was fabulous finally getting to root for them surrounded by other Royals fans and seeing all the improvements they have made to the stadium. A trip through the Hall of Fame was also uplifting nourishment for the baseball soul.
There was a time when the Royals were truly exciting to watch, when Ewing Kauffman was the owner, the days of George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson, Dan Quisenberry, Bret Saberhagen, Dick Howser, Steve Balboni, and so many more. Those were the Royals with whom I first grew up. My parents went to a game of the 1980 World Series, and to two games of the 1985 World Series. My Dad was there for Game 7! I can’t even imagine how that must have felt. These were the Royals with talent and some magic. In both the ALCS and the World Series, they lost three of the first four games to come back and win both.
Last year, the magic returned. Along with the talent of Larenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, Greg Holland, and more, so did winning. It was so indescribable as a Royals fan. Eeking our way into the Wild-Card playoff game which we won on a nail biter against the As, to sweeping two of the best teams in the AL, the Angels and Orioles. I attended Game 2 of the ALDS in Anaheim. It was sublime! And it was a win! After 29 years and finishing the sweep of the Orioles, we were American League Champions. After all the losses and vacant years, we had made it to the World Series. Unbelievable! All without huge superstars nor the capacity to crank out a lot of homeruns. I also was able to attend Game 4 of the World Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco. A World Series game! Well, technically it was my second World Series game, my Mom was pregnant with me during the 1980 World Series.
While I didn’t get to watch a win in either of my World Series’ attendances, what an experience! Plus, it was my first trip to AT&T Park. Talk about a beautiful stadium! I was in the upper deck down the first base line and had the most spectacular views, which helped distract from the loss! Though most of the Giants fans were decent, there were also some really nice ones, and some were really awful, though I won’t dwell on that. I was told more than once, “It’s so hard to hate you Royals fans, you’re just so nice and humble.” My response was usually, “Uhm, why do you have to hate us in the first place? It’s a game. I love my team, and it’s so exciting to be here and see them doing something they haven’t done in forever, nor anyone really thought they could do again! I’m just so excited and happy and you have such a beautiful ballpark!” Yeah, I ramble in person just like I do in writing.
My point is, it was a fantastic experience and so exciting despite the loss. And even eventually losing in Game 7, it was an electrifying thing of which to be a part. After so many years of just downright awfulness it was so touching and inspiring and fun to see my team winning, proving people wrong, and having fun themselves! There was so much pride for that team last year and what they gave, without any real superstars(though people know their names now!), and just playing good old fashion baseball, getting hits and moving runners, playing incredible defense, and grinding out runs. Best of all, they rejuvenated a city. Kansas City is a great place, often overlooked (being a part of “flyover country”), but the Royals team brought something back to the city and the people. And while there may be plenty of bandwagon fans ( who doesn’t have them?), there are plenty of us who have loyally stuck by this team and proudly worn our powder blue or royal blue shirts adorned with crowns and KCs, finally getting the ultimate payoff.
At the beginning of this season, the expectations were high, maybe not necessarily from outsiders, but the team and the fans. Plenty of people thought we were a fluke last season and we garnered little real respect, but came out blazing, showcasing that we weren’t a fluke and we weren’t going away. They put together an incredible season, save for about the last month of the regular season, and they have ended up right where they wanted to be, American League Central Division Champions, back to back American League Champions, and in the World Series for the second straight year, where the business is beyond unfinished.
It’s been 30 years since the Royals last won the World Series. I was four. I have literally been waiting for it all my life. I often tell people I still remember sitting on my Dad’s shoulders watching the World Series parade back then. Whatever transpires with the Mets, I will still be the devoted fan, unwavering in my support, and proud to be Forever Royal. If we don’t reclaim the crown (and I mean, seriously, we’re Royals, it’s rightfully ours), it will be disappointing, but I will still be proud of all they have done this season and post season.
And if we do, I wonder if my Dad will let me sit on his shoulders to watch the parade again?