Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Be Royal

I was 12 when we moved to Kansas City from back east. And the truth is, before we moved, the Royals were my second favorite team. I had a 1985 Fleer sticker of Royal Stadium, and thought that it looked like a pretty cool stadium. But more than that, the Royals reminded me of the Mets. My Mets had a young dominant pitcher in Dwight Gooden, and the Royals had Bret Saberhagen. The Mets had centerfielder that could fly with Mookie Wilson and the Royals had a Wilson of their own in WIllie. Both teams had right fielders who could hit the cover off the ball and gritty third basemen.

I hated the idea of leaving my friends and my Mets, but Kansas City didn’t sound like a horrible place. And we were going to live just 30 minutes from the stadium, compared to the nearly two hour trip we had back east. It was 1989 and the Royals had a pretty good team. But then we moved here, and I felt completely lost. I convinced myself that cheering for the Royals meant that I was being disloyal to the Mets. I quickly grew to hate living here, and rooting for a Kansas City team would have required positivity and enthusiasm. Being an angry 12 year old made that impossible. And so I quickly began to despise the Royals and the Chiefs.

As I made friends, even some who were Royal fans, my anti-KC feelings became part of those friendships. It’s great to root with people, but rooting against them is more engaging than being apathetic. So as the 90’s went, and the Royals ran their franchise into the ground, it became great fun to root against them. It helped take the focus off my Mets, who quickly became horrible themselves. 

I kept my anti-KC for years. Years became a decade, and soon a second decade. I made an exception when I attended the University of Kansas, and fell in love with Lawrence and the tradition of Jayhawk basketball. Plus, Lawrence never felt like the rest of the midwest to me. The Royals kept assembling ridiculous rosters and the Chiefs kept disappointing their faithful fans. So that was pretty fantastic. 
Things began to shift when I found someone who wasn't just willing to marry me, but really wanted to. And being a Kansas City native that I loved, I started to warm to the teams of her youth. Aspects of Kansas City that I used to mock, started to become appealing. It’s really affordable, and very family friendly. 

Before I knew it, and without realizing it, I built a life here. Fantastic friends and a great family of my very own. So while other cities are sexier and have more to offer, Kansas City became home. And the Royals, after going through more rebuilding projects than any fan base should ever be asked to endure, started to show some promise. Along with the promise I saw on the field, there was seeing my wife cheer for them. And then it finally happened. I accepted the Royals and Kansas City became home. Not home “until…” but it’s really home. It’ll never be where I’m from, and I’ll always love Long Island and the memories of back east. But it’s where my daughter is forming her childhood memories.

Last night’s 12 inning win brought back memories of seeing the Mets beat the Astros in 16 innings in the 1986 playoffs. And there’s nothing as memorable as a baseball team that won’t quit and finds a way to win. Go Royals. You know, unless they’re playing the Mets. 

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