Last night, I held a writing workshop for some students at UNL. Because there’s no dress code, and I’m not a fashion person, I wore what I usually wear to teach: jeans and a tee shirt. But not just any tee shirt, my favorite tee shirt. My Alex Gordon jersey shirt.
I just got it for Christmas, and I love it because Gordon is my favorite player. I’m thinking about putting some pine tar across the back of it. You know? Like Gordon gets after taking his practice cuts on deck.
At the end of this workshop, this student came up to me—a real bro-lookin kid, looks like he thinks Ray Bans are a new, cool thing, loves V-necks and some guy named Drake. One of those types of guys. He wasn’t a part of the workshop, just a guy hanging around. He started talking to me, which is fine. He asked me some questions and such, and it became clear that he thought I was a student like him. It happens.
Then, he noticed my shirt.
“Are you a Royals fan,” the kid asked.
“Yes. A big one, actually,” I said.
“Well, they’re good.” His sarcasm was very plain.
“I’m hoping they will be this year,” I said with a smile veiling disdain.
The kid then proceeded to tell me why the Royals are bad, effectively, why I’ve chosen poorly. Apparently, I was uninformed of their history, and that was why I had aimlessly wondered into Royals fandom like a child who wonders into a movie. Of course, his approach was tactless, but hey, the kid’s 20-years-old and the mayor of Bro-town. What can I expect? The interesting thing was that his critique did not provide the reasons why the team is bad (weak lineup, no depth, whatever). Instead, his argument rested on the notion that the Royals are just bad. Always and forevermore. The end. As he saw it, it is in their nature to be bad. He has no way of conceptualizing them as anything other than bad.
His position is an interesting one to think about and reminded me of an article I read earlier yesterday. It was ESPN’s ‘Future Power Rankings’ where they rank teams based on how good they will be over the next five years. If you read it, you’ll see that the Royals are 20th, which is pretty low on the list. When I see articles like this, and hear comments like Mayor McBro’s, I’m reminded that the national media and the wider baseball fan base view the Royals much differently than I, and many inside the Royals bubble, do.
This ‘Future Power Rankings’ list was put together by Buster Olney, Keith Law, and Jim Bowden—all people I respect very much. But I bet even if you put a panel of three very pessimistic Royals bloggers together, they would place the Royals higher on this list. And they’re much harder on the team than most.
Of course, some would question such a panel of Royals bloggers as bias because they’re emotionally invested in whether or not the team wins. Perhaps it would be. But let’s not assume it would certainly be bias, and let’s also not assume that a bias doesn’t exist in the rankings provided by Olney, Law, and Bowden. It’s a compelling conundrum because Olney, Law, and Bowden must spend their time thinking on a national scale, which means they certainly do not have the same single-minded focus as writers like Mike Engel or Rany Jazayerli. They may be influenced by the national narrative that seems to have frozen the Royals into the position of American League doormat. These are biases of a different sort, but impact one’s view just the same. At the same time, Engel and Jazayerli want the Royals to win and are emotionally tied up in the team. Their bias is obvious (though not obviously positive).
I don’t know that one point of view is better than another; I just know it surprises me to see that most people in this country expect the Royals to finish in the cellar this year … every year. I’ve been focusing heavily on the 2007 Rays a lot lately, but how many people (Olney, Law, and Bowden included) would have placed the Rays in the top-10 of the ‘Future Power Rankings’ in 2007 or 2006*? Probably not many. And now, they’re perennial playoff contenders in the toughest division in baseball. Obviously, that’s what I want for the Royals though I understand that the past narrative of the Royals indicates otherwise.
*These rankings didn’t exist until 2012.
For me, it will be a happy day if/when that narrative is proven false. When it is, I’m taking a trip to Bro-Town.