A couple of nights ago, our Kansas City Royals pulled off an amazing World Series win. It’s the first crown since the 1985 Royals beat the Cardinals and if you live in the Midwest, we all would’ve loved to see a Missouri match up again for old times sake. Sadly, it wasn’t to happen this post season and we wound up playing the Mets. Solid match up going into the series and a whole lot of fun if you don’t include all the sleep we just lost for the past month. Sunday night capped off an incredible season.
I’m not a sports commentator (like that’s a surprise) and I have to confess that I am somewhat of a fair weather fan. Here’s why. I didn’t live in Kansas City in 1985. I was a senior in high school in Peoria, IL. For those of you that don’t know the longstanding Peoria joke, “it’s halfway between St. Louis and Chicago.” That’s because if you live in Central Illinois you have to describe the middle of nowhere that way so people understand. In Peoria, you were either a Cards or Cubs fan. Since my Dad grew up in the Lou, we rooted for St. Louis and honestly, I have to tell you I could’ve cared less. I was only interested that fall in getting the hell out of P-Town and going to college. At least I’m honest.
After college, I wound up in K.C. and I really never gave baseball much thought. Why? The baseball strike kind of ruined the sport for me. I was finally in a town with a major league team and there was no baseball. The game became about bowing out for some and money for others. Lots of money. It was sad. But even more sad? The Kansas City Royals franchise never really bounced back.
From 1995-2004, I went to a Royals game a year. Why? It was opening day and someone invited me to a big event in a tent. The Royals? They stunk and unfortunately that made for boring baseball. The next decade I think I went to a game every couple of years but only because I had to for something for my kid. I loved the new stadium renovations and how family friendly they made the stadium, but baseball for me was a total snooze. Until 2013.
2013 was the first year that the Royals had a winning season since 1994 (and that wasn’t even a full season). That’s 19 years of losing ball games. That’s a long time to have your fans buy tickets, sportswear and lots of beer. That’s enough time for your fans (or the people who never were fans) to lose hope. Honestly, I think most of Kansas City did and then last year, magic happened and we made it to the World Series. We lost, but it was an amazing comeback for our team and the entire Kansas City metro jumped on the Royals bandwagon.
There’s something surreal that happens when you have a winning team. There’s such an impact on the community. With a winning sports team, people come together. They believe. They also buy things. Lots of things. For the first time in years, stores were stocked with Royals gear. That’s lots of dollars moving into the economy. Also a first? Unless you had season tickets, they were hard to come by and very expensive. So, we haven’t been to a game the past two years but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been glued to the TV.
Sunday night’s game was absolutely amazing although I have no fingernails left. In the 7th inning, the Mets were up 2-0 and I was convinced we were going to a game 6. That didn’t happen (and since I’m not a sports commentator, I’ll let you get all the details here). I’d like to tell you that the Royals pulled off the impossible with the 7-2 win but they didn’t. They knew it was possible. They had amazing talent, a deep bull pen and they believed.
Yesterday, an estimated 800,000 people descended on Kansas City’s downtown to welcome their winning team back home and to celebrate with a parade. While we weren’t able to attend because we had a procedure that couldn’t be rescheduled, Rosie and I wound up in the middle of the excitement as we drove to the hospital. It was incredible to see thousands of people waiting at the Park and Ride by our house (sadly, many of them couldn’t get on a bus due to volume). More amazing? Watching thousands of people walking 20 blocks to get to Union Station as we snaked along in our car to get to our destination, all of them decked out in blue. Every single one excited.
The magic of the Royals isn’t just in the win. It’s in the way they play the game- always smart and classy. But, that’s Kansas City. The night of the big win, there wasn’t any looting or arrests and yesterday with the entire downtown shut down, there were only a couple. Where other team’s fans tend to behave badly when they win, ours take time off from school and work to come together to celebrate.
I’ve always loved Kansas City. I chose it because it felt like home and I knew it would be a great place to settle down and have kids. If you take a look at that sea of blue, you’ll understand why this town is so special. Thanks to the Kansas City Royals for not only playing amazing ball, but for bringing an entire community together. For making us believe that anything is possible because we do.