*Immediately I must give my brother Mike Meade a shout out for the idea for this piece. He’s a brilliant guy and a big baseball fan. Follow him at @SomeDevil04 if you wanna read some crazy stuff.
Recently I was driving back to my hometown with my brother—he drives me around because I’m a bum. He’s a very smart guy getting a M.A. in History, and he told me to write an article about Royals nation. Of course, I was confused. Royals nation? What’s there to say about Royals nation? What is “Royals nation” exactly? I’m not one to simply declare that a Royals nation even exists or a Red Sox nation or a Cardinal nation or whatever. These aren’t nations; they’re fan bases. There’s a difference … or so I thought.
So, I made him explain why I should write about Royals nation … whatever that is.
He told me that historians have criteria through which they define a “nation”—I’m trusting him on this one because I have no clue. But according to him, a nation usually meets at least three criteria:
1) Shared experience (usually negative)
2) Shared language
I began thinking, which for me takes a lot of time and usually requires I take my shoes off for calculation. Maybe we are a Royals nation. Maybe such a thing does exist beyond the typical hum-drum nonsense of TV sports anchors and marketing departments. Let’s look at these criteria.
My brother was quick to add the “usually negative” part. This category seems a given for Royals fans, especially over the last 20 years or so. We have enough negative, shared experience to form, revolt, and re-form many nations. But it’s that negative, shared experience that galvanizes us. It draws us together. We experience the Kyle Davies’ and Angel Berroa’s of the world, and we grow stronger as a unit.
There are some who have suggested that this makes our nation stronger than some more populated nations—the Yankees and Red Sox perhaps. Some have suggested that it’s easy to be a Yankees fan, but that to be a Royals fan, to wear Royals gear, is to wear a badge that identifies you with a history of struggle.* It also marks you as someone willing to suffer for your nation.
*Rany Jazayerli mentioned this in an interview, but I forget with whom. It might have been on Royalman Report.
Mike pointed out to me that nationalist attitudes often lead to irrational behavior, doing something you know will only hurt you for the sake of your nation. We can certainly attest to that. We give our hearts and believe in a team that so often disappoints. And yet, we continue to give, and I know if you’re reading this you’re more than willing to keep giving.
We certainly have a shared language. Not English. Royalese. If I say “powder blue” to a member of the Royals nation, they see old-school unis and new school throwbacks. They see a streak of powder blue running to scream at an umpire of pine tar. If I say “Country Breakfast,” a member of the Royals nation sees the baby-faced-killa Billy Butler. To people outside Royals nation, who knows what these terms mean? Can you imagine what people think when they hear the term Hoch? What the hell is a Hoch? Is it anything like Hooch? Is it friends with Tom Hanks?
I love Royalese. I’d speak it all day if I could. My students would learn such wonderful new lingo: Come on Chen!, Esky, Buck, Pine Tar. I’m going to start developing verbs for these as well. Oh man, he just totally francoeured that guy! (gunned him at the plate). He’s getzing the hell out of me (frustrating me to the point where I hurl the thing in my hand at the television).
This is where it gets sticky to define the Royals fan base as a nation. We don’t share an ethnicity in its most traditional sense, and I’m sure those of us who aren’t terrible people believe that to be a terrific thing. The Royals fan base is a mixture of many ethnicities and is much better for it. We stand to learn great things about equality and inequality studying ethnicity in sports and sports fans.
However, one might say that we do all share a regional ethnicity. Most of Royals nation is somehow tied to the Midwest. Even those fans who live outside the Midwest usually have a link to it somehow. This, to me, is important. There is something inherently Midwestern about the Royals, their fans, and the Royals experience that works like an adhesive to our Royals nation. The game experience feels laid back, wholesome, and real. Even our players feel very real to me in contrast to the glossy, store-bought images of some major leaguers.
It’s partly our regional ethnicity that draws us together. We may all be different actual ethnicities, but our Midwesterness (whether we are from the Midwest or not) brings us closer together. When I meet random Royals fans, they all feel like my kind of people, like they could be from my hometown. Most of Royals nation seems to have a Midwestern quality.
I’m actually going to add a fourth criterion to this list–space.
I think every nation needs a space, whether that space is actual or imagined. The Royals have Kauffman Stadium, and a greater space I cannot imagine. It’s perfect for the type of positive nationalism sought by fan bases. It’s inviting to prospective new members with fountains and the Royals Hall of Fame, which can catch up our newest citizens to our nations history. It provides an education to the nation’s children as they watch the hit and run, the suicide squeeze.
Kauffman Stadium is the space in which a nation can be a nation together. It provides a tangible place for the nation to exercise its nationalist feelings in the most visceral way. We need that space.
After much thought, I think my brother was right. Royals nation is indeed a nation. It’s smaller in numbers than some, but a nation’s strength is not equal to its size but to its resolve. And we have resolve comin out tha Yankees (another Royals term meaning … well you already know).
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