By Jordan Carter • November 04, 2015
I have never particularly liked baseball. I've lived in some baseball-heavy cities, played the requisite childhood softball, and gone to a fair amount of games with my dad. Still, I never really cared for the game so much as the stadium nacho cheese. I was an exclusive basketball enthusiast, and even if I were to discover a passion for baseball, it sure as hell wasn't gonna be because of the laughingstock, perpetually abysmal hometown Kansas City Royals. And yet, something happened last fall. When my roommates and I got caught up in a wild card game that took us from the last night of September to the first minutes of October, I felt invested. Sure, partially it was creating the feature length movie we decided had to result from this game, one we subsequently cast with A list celebs and added some artistic subplots to (Love Diamond, coming soon to a theater near you). But that night, I rooted for the Royals as a fan. I witnessed the loyalty, grit, and energy that the Kansas City Royals offered a city that has gone through a renaissance in recent years. For the first time, I got it.
Fast forward a year later, and the madness is intoxicating. I've always believed sports bring communities together in a way nothing else can, and being a part of this Royals postseason has made that abundantly clear. Friendships at the office cropped up over that wild thriller last night. Strangers high fived in lines and on the street. The game was always on, everywhere you went, and it was the unifying cultural conversation everywhere you looked. We were all cheering for the same team, and even those who have never watched a entire sporting event in their lives went out to buy a t-shirt because it was just that exciting and this team was just that likable. I have never seen a sea so vibrantly blue as Kansas City has been the last month.
Real sports writers can capture what this World Series run and Royals resurgence mean to the city and to the game far better than I can. There are many phenomenal journalists whose words should be studied for what good writing can be. But as a shameless bandwagon fan, I can tell you this season has been really, really fun. It is pure luck that this dizzying season coincided with moving to KC after three years in Lawrence, where the sports passion is high but distinctly different. College basketball will forever be my one true love, but there is something deeply American, wholesome, heartbreaking about baseball-- and I feel extra grateful I got to feel the electricity live. You honestly couldn't have written a better script for the past two Royals seasons (hence the movie in the works, we are accepting backers so hit me up) and it was the most entertaining, stressful, incredible sports story I've ever seen. I lost a lot of sleep and a lot of billable hours and it was worth every second.
To be sure, as a fan I've earned absolutely nothing. I've accumulated my shirts, watched the rotation enough to know their personalities, developed a crush on a player, as one does. But I don't have the deep rooted fandom that many others do, and so what's been almost as fun as watching the winning is watching the diehards watch the winning. To watch the disbelief of fans who have had their hearts broken for basically their entire lives finally see the payoff, to listen to their stories of being at games where they were practically giving away tickets, to absorb their passionate tales of the history and drama of the franchise, to know how very much they believed in the Royals when literally no one else did makes me deeply happy. This is loyalty. This is fandom. This is why we love sports.
Earlier this week, Kansas City got a World Series parade. The city nearly shut down -- many of us, including the city's youths, got "blue snow days" and it truly felt like every single person in town (and apparently many people from out of town) was a part of that parade. When I think about the way people I know perceived and talked about Kansas City five or ten years ago (an average middle America town, a fine option if you "just wanted to stay around home" but not a particularly glamorous goal), it's almost insane that there were 800,000 people of all ages screaming with pride in little ol Kansas City on a Tuesday. Because, no matter the stats, our fair city is an underdog. It is the little brother who is finally getting its chance to shine. I have heard a lot of shit about this part of the country from our coastal counterparts, and while some of the criticism is warranted, much of it is pure arrogance and ignorance. Kansas City is a city where people care about each other, where people work hard and play hard, where people want to build something bigger than themselves. It's a city where people will camp out all night, rally all morning, then peacefully and politely exit so everyone can get home for family dinner. It's a city that's handed nothing, never feels entitled, knows it will never be flashy, but shows up and works together to put in the effort, year by year, to become the kind of place where people are excited to wear its name on their shirts. It is purely Midwestern in all the very best ways, and I am growing to love it more than I ever anticipated.
All of this was true before the Royal reign, but there's something about a sports team -- this team -- that sparks an energy and a deep sense of community that nothing else can quite achieve. This team has given us heroes, given us redemption, given us the story we will all tell our grandchildren about that team of homegrown underdogs who believed in themselves when no one else did. So though I am in awe of what this team did on the field, because holy crap it was epic, I am equally transfixed with what they've catalyzed off the field. If the Kansas City Royals never make the playoffs again, what they've done will be enough. This city is electric blue and I think it's gonna stay that way. It feels like, in more ways than one, the home team has won.