People here in Kansas City are pretty excited about the Royals these days. The fountains are spouting blue water, little Royals emblems are showing up in odd places (our best tea shop and patisserie is now decorating their petit fours with tiny Royals logos made of marzipan), and people who have never watched a baseball game in their life are tuning in to the game and reading the sports page.
That would be me I’m talking about. Not that one needs to read the sports section of the local paperthese days to find out what’s happening with the Royals. Everything about the team now appears on the front page of the paper, above the fold and under giant headlines. That is “giant” with a lower-case g, of course. Not to be confused with a certain sports team.
People change. In truly unforeseen ways. Until a few weeks ago, heck, even up until 48 hours ago, I would have said the chance of me writing a blog about baseball was as likely as me jumping out of a plane. That is to say, zero. I’ve never followed baseball, football, or any team sport and have been pretty much a tabula rasa about anything regarding them. Years ago I shocked an office mate to the core by not knowing who George Brett was when his name was mentioned. This at a time when George Brett was doing very swell things for the local team in, I think, baseball.
But the enthusiasm here is infectious and it’s impossible not to enjoy the talk about the team that goes on with complete strangers and the esprit de corps Kansas Citians are sharing these days. For someone as ignorant as I am, the learning curve is pretty steep but starting off from such a low knowledge base my comprehension of the game is increasing by leaps and bounds every day. In my Italian class yesterday, we discussed baseball terms in Italian, which added to my knowledge of baseball even more than to my Italian. The handout was somewhat mind-boggling, the English just as much as the Italian. ”Fat Pitch”? “ “Dive Slide”? Baseball is a foreign language of its own, I realized.)
The camaraderie I’m finding must be a little bit like what people experience in wartime. I’m a natural pessimist, but people here are doing a great job of not only cheering on the team but each other. Wednesday night when I went to my local grocery store in the evening—deserted, since the game had just started and everybody was home watching it – the cashier had words of comfort for me. After the disastrous first game at home when the Giants won by a landslide, I thought the remaining World Series games could be pretty ugly for the Royals and said so. “That was just nerves,” she said. “They’ll turn it around tonight.”
She spoke confidently and she was right. That second game of the World Series was thrilling, both because of the lopsided victory and for the relief that at least the Royals had been saved from going down to a total and humiliating defeat. Last night’s Royals’ win in game 3 was more tense. But it was a shocker too in its way. “You know, I think they could actually win,” said a longtime Royals’champion I’ve been watching the games with. He is a diehard fan, and until I heard the dazed tone in his voice I’d not realized just how demoralizing the Royals’ long, 29-year stint in baseball obscurity had been for fans or how amazing their comeback seems to them.
I’m watching the game tonight. I hope the Royals win it. I hope they win the World Series. But even if they don’t, I’m glad I got a chance to cheer their ride to the top. I think Kansas Citians are feeling like the Israelites after so many years wandering in the desert. Whatever happens, we’ve been to the mountain top.