I could start this column by telling you about the turmoil Kansas City Royals fans have gone through in the past 30 years, and how it was once a proud, dominant franchise that was an October staple.
I could start this column by telling you about the happiest 30-minute phone call I’ve ever had with both of my parents after Salvador Perez capped off four separate Royals comebacks to send my beloved baseball team to the ALDS for the first time in 29 years.
I could start this column by telling you about all the times the Royals lost more than 100 games in a season, or about how they once sent a guy with a 5+ ERA to the All-Star Game, or about the time a player got hit in the back by a cutoff throw, or how Sidney Ponson was the starting pitcher in the first game at the renovated Kauffman Stadium, or how they once traded Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, and Carlos Beltran for scraps.
But I won’t.
I’ll start this column by telling you about the time I crumbled to the floor in my one-bedroom apartment in South Austin as I watched Christian Colon dash across home plate while the Royals poured out of the dugout to mob Perez. First, there was absolute shock. Then came the pure, unbridled, lose-my-shit sports joy that I’ve experienced maybe once before in my life. Next came the realization that the game was actually over and the only thing left to do was to take in all the sights and sounds, and try to explain to my girlfriend why her adult boyfriend had been brought to tears by a game. In all honesty, I blacked out after the ball bounced down the left field line. I came to as I was sitting on my couch, my eyes welled up with sports tears as I sputtered out a string of incoherent words between half-laughs and stifled sobs. It was like watching the end of “Rudy,” “Field of Dreams,” and “The Shawshank Redemption” all at the same time. An emotional overload.
So, why was I driven to tears?
I’ve been thinking about it all day. I’ve watched the play at least 15 times in the last 12 hours. I’ve teared up three times since I started writing this. I can’t explain it, but I’ll try. The reason we cry because of sports is the payoff. An average sports season, whether it be MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL, or NCAA, lasts around four months. A third of the year. I don’t play in the games. I don’t work for the team. I have no direct impact on the day-to-day operations of the team. Yet I still feel like I’m a part of it. I’ve invested thousands of dollars, hours, and days, and I’ve sacrificed my sanity for most of my life. This was the payoff. Imagine spending at least 25 years of your life waiting for something to happen, and then it finally happens. Last night’s game was akin to asking out the love of your life 29 times and getting shot down 28 times. On the twenty-ninth try, she finally says yes, and then she tells you she’s dying and there’s nothing you can do about it. Then she dies, and then she’s resurrected back to life by the medical miracle of small ball and the two of you ride off into the sunset.
You can say “there’s no crying in baseball” all you want, but as those tears gently rolled down my face last night, it was the first time in my life I ever thought Tom Hanks was wrong about anything. Baseball is the great American game, TV ratings be damned. To finally be a main character on the grandest stage in the grandest game this country has to offer is more than thrilling.
The Kansas City Royals. The abandoned dog on the side of the road that you can’t help but feel sorry for finally found a home. The Kansas City Royals. The payoff for years of 71-91, when you had a Cy Young ace pitcher. The payoff for the 1994 players’ strike that cut short a 14-game winning streak. The payoff for all those wasted late summer nights watching September call-ups. The payoff for paying full price to watch the Royals get drubbed by the Montreal Expos on a Tuesday afternoon with 8,000 other insane people.
It all came crashing down Tuesday night, and I couldn’t help myself..