“You have to pick one,” he told me. I sat back in my chair and scratched the top of my head. It was July of 2012 and I was at our annual family reunion near the Lake of the Ozarks. This was the time of year when my assorted cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. got together for a weekend of hanging out at the lake and goofing around at the lodge we all shared. Lunches and dinners with my cousins inevitably evolve into sports discussions. I have a mixture of Royals and Cardinals fans in my family although there are more KC fans than St. Louis overall. This means that our July discussions typically revolve around the Chiefs and what training camp will look like as the Royals have typically played their way into mediocrity or worse by the time we all meet in midsummer.
“One or the other,” he prompted. We’d run the gamut on complaints about the Royals and had delved into what we thought the Chiefs would look like this year. As we prepared to start talking about setting our fantasy football draft date, my cousin asked me a question that I’d thought about several times before.
“A Royals World Series or a Chiefs Super Bowl? Which one do you pick?”
“Royals World Series,” I said. “Has to be. I love the Chiefs but I’m in a committed relationship with the Roys.”
“You’d better settle in for a long wait,” laughed my uncle. I shrugged and acknowledged that I realized he could be right.
I’ve thought about that a lot in the last month. I’m going to be honest with you. I haven’t wanted to think about the Royals in the last month and a half. Usually in the off-season, I spend all of October, November, and December doing what all of you guys do which is postulate what crazy move the Royals are going to make to put it all together for the next season.
Okay, in all honesty, I’m usually thinking about what move Dayton’s going to make that will cause me sadness. I’m a happy individual like that.
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But there’s something about coming up 90 feet short of tying game 7 of the World Series that changes your off-season routine a bit. I feel like a bitter old man a lot of the time just in general but I’ve never felt more cantankerous and despairing than after losing that game. I sat on my couch and felt tears well up in my eyes as the television showed a stunned Kansas City crowd. An hour later I watched my Twitter and Facebook timeline fill with posts of grateful thanks for the Royals “…even getting that far.”
I couldn’t do it. I just kept thinking about how we’d come so far. One game away from glory in the weirdest, most gut-wrenching season of my life. So while other fans tried to put a positive spin on the end of the season, I got stuck in this black hole of thinking that we might never get that close again. It felt like destiny until it wasn’t and I wasn’t ready to concede the fact that the Royals had a magical run.
So I took a little over a month off of even thinking that much about the Royals. I didn’t research free agent possibilities. I didn’t think about what any of our relievers might be worth to another team.
I still tuned into some things that went on. I paid my respects to Billy and felt sad though I wouldn’t have wanted the Royals to give him a deal like the one the Athletics offered. I watched Salvador Perez‘s Instagram videos. But October drained me. It hurt to get that close and have victory snatched away at the very end. I sat on my couch as San Francisco celebrated and a terrified voice in the back of my mind said, “You’re never going to see them with this opportunity again. They had a chance but they couldn’t hack it and this is as close as you’re going to get.”
It was fairly easy to stay distracted. I coach middle school girls basketball which brings plenty of its own joys and challenges and I didn’t have to think about baseball. But something changed a few days ago. I woke up and finally felt like I was ready to start thinking about next year. Like I could look back on the 2014 season and appreciate the sheer absurdity of it. Like I could enjoy the fact that my team played on a national stage and surprised all kinds of people.
Time heals all wounds they say. My wounds aren’t completely healed but they’re closing enough for me to finally start getting excited about 2015. I’m finally ready to say thank you to the 2014 Royals.
You caused me pain. You caused me heartache. You caused my pulse to race for the entire month of October. I will never forget this season. Now if I could just find a way to stop having nightmares where I’m stuck in a batter’s box with Madison Bumgarner staring me down, I’d be almost completely renewed.
“You have to choose one,” my cousin asked me those many months ago.
A Kansas City Royals World Series in my lifetime. Give me that and let me sit back wherever I am and breathe a huge sigh of relief. Let me share knowing glances with other Royals fans and nod. We won’t even need to say anything. We’ll know that we finally got to experience one of the most amazing sports experiences that exists. And we’ll know that we made it together.