Have you ever had an opportunity to talk to one of your idols and you just couldn’t do it?
Let me relate to you my story…
Many moons ago*, a younger Ethan Evans was approximately a high school junior. Every year our school would sponsor a trip to the Plaza in Kansas City for all of the high school students and sometimes the junior high students as well. We would ride down on a bus and just hang out down there for an evening. You’d do the typical things like yell at people who rode around in carriages, climb the trees outside of Starbucks, and see how long you could hog the massage chairs in Sharper Image before they kicked you out.**
*5 or 6 years (for the layman) **Let me reiterate….high school boys
This trip was always exciting although I’d never spend any money. The only thing I’d splurge on was books when we went to Barnes and Noble. I like to read so I’d generally get something there. As for everything else, I wasn’t touching it with any of MY sparse funds. Usually we’d have some girls we knew in our group who’d want us all to go to some fancy* restaraunt and eat. I was the guy who couldn’t stand paying 30 bucks for a meal that I felt I could get significantly cheaper at a less prestigious institution.
Anyways, I reference all of this to say that this trip was essentially the same every year. It was fun, but it felt like I did the same thing so many years in a row that now it all blends together for me. However, there was one year that I’ll never forget.
A buddy of mine had just walked out of some store with me when I heard someone laughing. Now it’s not like I’ve heard George Brett talk a lot…just a few interviews on the radio and T.V., but for some reason I recognized him laughing.
I glanced over and sure enough there he was walking down the sidewalk in front of me with a couple of friends.
“Dude, that’s George Brett!” I said to my friend. (using glorious high school rhetoric)
“You’re right!” he said. We looked at each other for a minute. Then I came up with one of the greatest ideas I’d ever had.
“Let’s follow him!” I said. So we uh….stalked George Brett around the plaza.
Now I’m not a guy who just has to have autographs. I always imagine how a celebrity probably gets battered with millions of autograph requests each day and I just don’t want to be the object of annoyance by asking someone for an autograph…particularly when it appears they’re just going to a restaraunt with some friends. Maybe that makes me timid, I don’t know. Everything that I own that’s autographed was given to me by friends. The only reason my third grade baseball glove is signed by Johnny Damon is because I went to a Royals game with a friend who literally screamed Johnny’s name at the top of his lungs until he would sign my glove. I am convinced Damon only signed it to shut him up.
Anyways….I wasn’t sure why, but I felt like I had to follow George even though I wasn’t going to bother him. We literally followed him around for at least 15 minutes before he walked into a restaurant. I had kind of forgotten myself and was literally about to walk into the restaurant after him when a host stepped in front of me and just looked at me like I was an idiot….which I suppose I was. It kind of snapped me back to the reality that I’d just been creepily following a person around the plaza on a Friday night…so I looked through the window for awhile before finally deciding to leave.
I suppose that’s a little bit of an anticlimactic end to my story, but it makes me laugh to think about why I followed him around. As I said, it wasn’t because I necessarily wanted an autograph. Now that I think about it, I wish I’d had the nerve to ask for one, but I wasn’t even going to talk to the guy. I think the reason I followed him was because he is a part of the only vestige of winning Royals baseball I can identify with, and that’s merely from all the video of the ’85 World Series I’ve watched. Following the most famous Royal who won a world series before I was even born was an opportunity to be around someone who’d won the big one in a Royals uniform. I had to be around that as long as I could, even if I was merely creeping on the fringes of that aura.
There are a lot of people out there who have been Royals fans for a long time….longer than I’ve been alive. But the pain they’ve felt over this drought of baseball success is no more poignant than the pain of Royals fans like myself who have only ever known subpar baseball.
The great thing about the hope that this team inspires is that it has more potential of being the real deal. Fans of the Royals of old will get to see younger fans, such as myself, truly experience what it will be like to root for a winning ball club. I can honestly tell you right now that if the Royals are in a race for the division this time next year…I don’t know what I’ll do with myself. I’ve literally never experienced a serious chance to win the division. And if I could actually get a chance to watch the Boys in Blue in the playoffs?
Good grief, just thinking about that gets me excited. Watching all of our young players now makes me think about how good I think they can be next year. Eternal optimists unite!*
*As long as we can figure out that starting pitching problem.