There’s only on team that can win the World Series and it’s the Kansas City Royals. Don’t even fucking argue just listen.
If you pay much attention to professional sports and you are between the ages of one and thirty, there’s a good chance that you are inclined to believe that any team with the disastrous initials KC in front of their scoreline infographic is destined for failure. And in that thirty-year span, you would not be wrong. It’s safe to say that the last couple of decades have been pretty tough for the good people of Kansas and those poor bastards who live in Missouri and are not Cardinals fans. There are plenty of articles that go into a myriad of anecdotal and factual detail to explain just how bad these fans have it (for all of their sports teams, not just baseball), so I’m not going to recap too much. But I will provide you with my own anecdotal evidence.
My Uncle Barry was a teenager when the Royals won their only World Series Title. Naturally, this lead him to love the Royals unconditionally and, apparently, for an infinite amount of time. A few seasons ago, my entire side of my ma’s family (including my Uncle Barry) went to a Royals game to celebrate my Grandparents’ 65th Anniversary. At the time, the Minnesota Twins (my team) were in the midst of a slow collapse into their own version of baseball irrelevancy. I was sitting between my dad (also a Twins fan) and Barry. My dad and I were lamenting the fact that the Twins were losing (again) and that they were now completely out of playoff contention. My Uncle Barry turned to us and said, “I don’t even think about the playoffs anymore. All I want is a meaningful game in September. That’s it. Just one meaningful game in September.” For those of you who don’t know, that’s about the saddest hope anyone can have for a baseball team. That’s like hoping your football team goes 7-9 and blows the final two games of the season to miss the playoffs in a terrible division. Or hoping your NBA franchise tanks “the best” so that you have a shot at the number-one draft pick. Or like when you were a kid and you were forced to play a team that you KNEW was way better than your team and you KNEW something embarrassing was going to happen to SOMEONE on your team at some point during the game and you just PRAYED that it wouldn’t happen to you. If that still doesn’t sway you, consider this: the Royals Wikipedia page actually has a section titled “Rock Bottom.” Holy shit. That’s how low the bar was for this team was just a few seasons ago.
And now. At last. Here they are, relevant again. The best part is, they’re doing it with a bunch of guys that basically everyone (including Royals fans) had essentially given up on. A whole slew of prospects that were deemed busts have either finally found their strides or are having statistically flukey seasons all at the same time, and the result is a strange type of baseball that has been called “Old School,” “Small Ball” or, perhaps more accurately “Lucky.” The Royals play good defense, and that’s about it. They have that thing that your middle-school gym teacher/wrestling coach/overly masculine father figure called “hustle.” They really care. They want to win and I don’t even know if they know why.
This might be a good time to wax poetic about “what sports can do for you” and all of that other cliched shit that is, like almost all cliches, mostly true – but that would be doing the Kansas City Royals a great disservice. They don’t need any more meaning beyond being the team that has been the perpetual ragdoll for the entire league for the better part of thirty years. Right now the Royals exist in the entirely experiential plane of existence that is reserved for taking in a sporting moment before it’s entire context is revealed. Like watching Lance Armstrong crush everyone in the Tour de France before we found out he was a drug-cheat, or what it must have been like to watch sports without “advanced statistics” and “moneyball” and all of the other bullshit that clogs up the 24-hour sports news cycle on ESPN. The best thing about sports is that it actually is unpredictable. It’s statistically unlikely for your team to lose every damn time for 29 years and it’s probably just as unlikely for them to turn it all around in one season and win everything, but I’m sick of the odds and I’m sick of predictions. The Royals don’t need a meta-narrative, they just need themselves and a fan base that has waited a very, very, long time.