Every time I walk down a grocery store aisle wearing my Royals cap, every time I show up at the gym with my powder blue t-shirt, every time I fill my car with gas and the guy at the next pump sees my Crown logo window sticker, I get the same reaction: “You’re a fan of the Royals? They’re a bunch of losers.” “Did you see Leno last night? He made some great Royals jokes.” “Kansas City still has a baseball team? Who knew?”
What aggravates me the most about these people is that the majority of them state their sports allegiance superiority by claiming to be a fan of the Yankees, the Patriots, the Dallas Cowboys, the Red Sox or some other team that has a “cool” following of hip, band-wagon devotees. I know this same scenario plays out in your life. Challenge one of this wannabees sometime and ask if they’ve ever bought a ticket to see their team in their own home stadium. In my rule book, if you’ve never once paid to watch your team play in person at home, then you simply cannot be a “real” fan.
I’ve always viewed my loyalty to the Royals the same way I have always felt about watching my sons play little league. When your kids play baseball, you go to the game, and you root hard for them, win or lose, and you never stop cheering or believing in their potential because they’re your kids – and nothing will ever change that. This is how I feel about the Royals. They are my team – always have been and always will be – and nothing will ever change that.
We all know the competitive landscape in baseball isn’t fair, at least not in the same way that the NFL is fair with virtually every well managed football team having a shot to make the playoffs each year regardless of market size. For whatever reason, Major League Baseball has rejected the revenue sharing lessons taught by the NFL, which is the primary explanation for why football overtook baseball as America’s game many years ago. Yes, believe it or not, once upon a time, baseball was the most popular sport in America by a long shot. In my opinion, George Steinbrenner and big market money have been the most significant contributors to the dulling of baseball’s once bright luster.
We Royals fans are an unusual bunch. Are any of us “bandwagon” fans? There were a few earlier this season when hopes were high and expectations were unrealistic, but most of them are long gone. If you’re still watching games and reading this web site in September of 2012, then most likely, you are a “real” Royals fan.
And how did you become a Royals fan? I’m old enough to remember the great years, when the Royals dominated professional baseball, so it was natural for me to become a fan. (It seems like a dream, but yes, it’s true – the Royals completely dominated for many years.) But how about you? If you are younger than about 35-years-old, then you are the purest of fans. You cheer for a team that has never played competitively in your active memory, because you’ve chosen them and they are your team, and because real fans don’t jump to another bandwagon when their team doesn’t win every year.
I have great respect for Royals fans who started following the team during the dark ages of the past couple decades. One of them is my friend Chris Anderson. I think Chris is about 27-years-old and he’s as hard-core and knowledgeable as any old-school Royals fan I know. I don’t have any idea how Chris became this way, but I have great respect for his devotion to the team, and I’m proud to count him amongst those of us who bleed Royal blue and long for the day when we will celebrate another championship. You can follow Chris on Twitter at @dieselChristoph.
I don’t have any other point to this story except to say that it’s when times get rough, that’s when you find out who your true friends are. And in the world of sports, there are few things rougher than rooting for a perennial loser as they play out the stretch, eliminated from playoff contention, during the final weeks of the season. Royals fans who hang on in September are the true fans, and they should receive some sort of medal or certificate of recognition. In lieu of an award, I salute you, and I stand with you as we cheer our team together until the last out of the last inning of the last game.
Although the Royals aren’t going to win 82 games as I hoped a few months ago, it’s still been a fun season and I’m excited about what the future holds with Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and our returning Tommy John group of pitchers added to our current team, along with hopefully a few additional tweaks and adjustments to the roster. (And maybe one or two big name acquisitions. Hey – I can dream, can’t I?) In just a few days we’ll close out the season, we’ll watch longingly as the fans in other markets cheer their teams in the playoffs, and we’ll make plans to do it all over again starting next Spring.