Due to the events of the last week, I have decided to postpone the next installment describing my experiences when I traveled to Ireland last month.
You see, the Kansas City Royals baseball team won the World Series this week. This may not be very important news in your world, but here in my hometown, it’s a really, really big deal. I have lived in Kansas City for most of my life and I have never seen anything like the reaction around here towards the win. The media keeps talking about the fact that the Royals haven’t won a World Series championship since 1985. I was an adult in 1985 and lived near the metro area at the time. While that win was exciting, the reaction of Kansas City and the surrounding metropolitan areas has been nothing short of amazing.
The most amazing thing to me about the Kansas City fans support of the Royals this season is how unified the city has become. Excitement about this team has, at least temporarily, put an end to many of the divisions in the city. No one cared if you were black or white; if you lived in Kansas or Missouri; or if you lived in the city or the suburbs. They were all rooting for the Royals.
Now, before I go any further, I want to make clear that I do not intend to do or say anything that would mislead someone into thinking I follow any teams or sports. Since I became single eight years ago, I have never had my television turned to a game unless someone was a guest in my home and they wanted to watch a game. It’s not that I don’t like sports; I do. I grew up with parents who were both avid and vocal supporters of the local teams; I have lived with two different men who scheduled their time around who was playing in what game when; and I raised three daughters who all played sports the majority of their lives. As a result of my loved ones loving sports, I have spent much of my life watching sporting events both live and on television. I understand the rules and can cheer as obnoxiously as the next person. However, in my decisions of how to spend my time when I’m alone, watching sports is low on my priority list.
No matter how un-informed I tried to stay about the team, there was no way to avoid being aware of how the Royals were doing this season. Everywhere I went this summer, it seemed someone was talking about either the game they’d played the day before or they were talking about the next game on the schedule. Basically, if you saw a group of people sitting together talking excitedly, the odds were good it was a Royals game they were discussing.
Frequently, people were discussing where they’d seen the players around town. This year’s Royals players did not keep themselves away from their fans. They could be found in the shopping centers, at the grocery stores and at most social events around town. How could you not love and cheer for a team comprised of players who, no matter how well-known they were, could still be seen around town doing the same things everyone else was doing?The gym where I work has two Kansas City Star newspapers delivered each morning. Every day people were asking for the sports section so they could see how the Royals were doing. The mood at the gym was frequently dictated by the score of the game.
From the very first pitch of the very first game of the season, people have been excited about this team. The faithful have been convinced the Royals were going to not only make it to the World Series in 2015, but this year they were going to win it. The Royals started the season strong and, despite the normal highs and lows of a long season, stayed strong.
By August, the fans knew in their hearts that the team would make it to the playoffs because they were 10 games ahead of the Central division. On September 24th, they beat Detroit and clinched a spot in the playoffs. The Royals were in the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Much has been written about the heart of this team and their perseverance. During the run for the crown, the word around Kansas City was that the first 7 innings don’t count when you’re playing the Royals. There were so many extra inning games that most of the town was excited but exhausted for almost the entire month of October.
To support the team, all of the buildings in the metropolitan area that have outdoor lighting have been lit with blue lights for the entire month of October. Kansas City promotes itself as “The City of Fountains,” and all of the fountains are flowing with blue water. Tents selling Royals t-shirts popped up on almost every corner of the city.
In the American League Central Division series, the Royals beat the Houston Astros, 3-2, winning in 5 games. In the American League Championship series, the Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-2, winning in 6. In the World Series, the Royals beat the New York Mets, 4-1, winning in 5.
I don’t know what the rest of the world has seen about the victory parade in Kansas City on Tuesday, November 3rd, but it was phenomenal. Businesses closed and most of the school districts in the metropolitan area were closed so everyone who wanted to could attend the parade. Around here, it’s being called “the blue snow day.”
The city originally expected around 100,000 fans to show up. The night before, they said possibly 200,000 would show up. By that morning, they had bumped the number up to 400,000. They now estimate 800,000 fans showed up to cheer on their Royals.
To put things in perspective, I live a little more than 2-1/2 miles South of Union Station, which is where the parade started. When I tried to go downtown that morning at 9:30, there were already crowds streaming towards downtown, on foot, in cars, and on buses, from further South than my home. The parade started at noon. People were walking more than 3 miles to get to the parade more than 2 hours before it was scheduled to start. And for many of them, this was after driving over an hour in heavy traffic to even get that close to the festivities.
So, now the season is over. No more baseball until next April. And a city that has united around their team is eagerly waiting to see what their boys will do next year. Let’s go Royals!
You can see some of the highlights of the season on this MLB video: A Look Back at the Royals Top Moments of 2015.