Enough with the pity!
For Kansas City Royals fans who live outside the region, it’s a brand new world.
“The last lot of years, I have gotten a lot of pity looks and sympathy whenever I wear my gear or say I'm a Royals fan,” says Tara reid-O’Brien, who lives in Las Vegas. “And I have just told people ‘just you wait.’”
Reid-O’Brien, a Kansas City native, has stayed true to the team despite decades of down seasons. And like many other Royals fans across the country – and world, it turns out – the payoff arrived as the Royals made it into the World Series. What’s more, the unexpected success of the team has charmed many others into becoming Royals fans.
“Everyone is pulling for them. It’s so awesome,” reid-O’Brien wrote in a reply to a “Tell KC” query about being a Royals fan in a far-off land.
Reid-O’Brien says she has even worn a Royals shirt during her performances as an Irish dancer on the Vegas strip, and people have loved it.
Many Royals fans who live outside the region shared similar experiences with KCUR.
Laura Herring says she’s been shocked by the level of support and positivity in Washington, D.C.
“I'm really the only Royals fan most of my friends and acquaintances know. I've received phone calls, text messages, and emails from people congratulating me all the way,” she says.
“Being so close to Baltimore, in a city that has a lot of (Orioles) fans, has been a lot better than I expected. Nearly every single Os fan I've ran into out in DC as I'm wearing my Royals gear has been supportive and most shout ‘Congrats!’”
Omar Green, a Kansas City native now living in Maryland, says rooting for the Royals used to be “incredibly lonely” but now: “I was in Camden Yards for game one of the ALCS and I must say, it was incredibly gratifying.”
He says few baseball fans, if any, in the area regarded the Royals as a credible post-season threat — that was of course, until their teams (the Orioles and the Nationals) were upended prematurely. So now, there's a bit of respect shown toward Kansas City, albeit begrudgingly. (By the way, we featured comments from Green and Herring, among others, on Central Standard last week. Click here to listen to the segment.)
A similar story comes in from Matthew Specht, of New Haven, Conn.:
“Most seasons, rooting for the Royals from the Northeast is like checking the weather in a city you haven't lived in for years: you do it out of habit, but you don't really know why, and you realize you probably shouldn't. And telling people you root for the Royals obligates you to tell people your entire life story. People ask about your sanity, or whether you were abused as a child. And then you need to explain that no, I had a normal childhood, and yes, I'm talking about THOSE Royals. But this year has been different, because there was something off about this team. In a good way. And it's made it all worthwhile.”
He adds: “The non-baseball fans still can't find Kansas City on the map or tell me what sport the Royals play, and everyone else is waiting for the Royals' luck to run out. But I know better.”
Much less convincing is needed in some parts of the Midwest. According to Roger Millnitz, there’s lots of love for the Royals in Lincoln, Neb., the hometown of Royals left fielder Alex Gordon.
“They are like our ‘home team’ in Lincoln since they're the closest pro baseball team, and since Alex Gordon is one of their stars,” says Millnitz, who has never lived in the Kansas City area. “Lots of talk around town over coffee, lunch, and drinks about The Royals. A bit of a sense of ownership here!”
As an example, he points to a local pub called The Press Box, which he says is usually inhabited by many Royals fans.
“The night they beat Oakland in the ‘play in’ game, it was raining cats and dogs, 6-plus inches, and the flooding rain approached the place. But the fans stayed and went nuts as the Royals pulled off the great comeback,” he says.
Kammie Lara has lived away from Kansas City for more than a decade, but she has always considered being a Royals fan as something that defined her.
“I have lived on the East Coast, overseas in two countries, and now on the West Coast. I find that being a Royals fan always seems to make some sort of a connection for me with others. If I have on a Royals shirt, I often run into someone from the KC area, no matter where I am in the world! There is an instant connection. Also, everyone loves the Midwesterners and appreciates our love for the boys in blue!”
Today, Lara lives in Santa Clara, Calif. — San Francisco Giants territory.
“I am not the most popular person around, but everyone now makes comments to me about the Royals or says good luck to me! I am now married to a Giants fan (boo!!!), but I still proudly wear my Royals gear, especially now,” she says.
“We went to the entire series in Oakland right after our wedding, I even got my new husband to wear blue, and we have tickets to go to Game 4 of the World Series in San Francisco!!!! I am beyond excited!!!!” (Those are her exclamation points!!!!)
Kansas City native Karen Huber chimes in from Dublin, Ireland, where the time difference means her family is getting less sleep when the Royals are playing.
“Our Irish friends are intrigued by the American baseball culture, especially as we explain the series, innings and the miracle we're now witnessing. They're excited for us and asking if we'll be staying up to watch the games,” she says.
But Huber herself has been a now-and-then fan: “My relationship with the Royals has been complicated, as most of my teenage years through adulthood there's not been much to celebrate. But I'm thrilled for my hometown team, friends and family. And more than a little bit homesick.”
Finally, consider the situation of John Craig, of Easton, Md. Easton has never lived in Kansas City. Yet, the Royals are his passion, thanks to family.
“My parents both grew up in Missouri and so every year of my childhood we went to (the) KC area to visit family. I got to go to one Royals game every year, beginning around 1975. On the days we were in the state and didn't go to a game we gathered around the radio in the living room at my grandmother’s house and listened. If they scored a run we would all run around the house.”
Craig says he collected every Royals baseball card from 1969 to 1993, watched every minute of the 1980 and 1985 World Series, and went to George Brett’s Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown, N.Y.
And one of his real claims to Royals’ fame: “When living in NYC, nearly got beat up at Yankee stadium many times!”
KCUR caught up with him on Tuesday, and learned he had just landed in Kansas City and was headed to Kauffman Stadium for Games 1 and 2 of the World Series. The financial breakdown: $400 airfare; $69 a night for hotel; $750 for Game 1 ticket, with Game 2 tickets still to be purchased.
On Wednesday, he talked philosophically about the Royals’ loss the night before, which he viewed from just behind the Giants’ dugout.
“I knew it was going to be tough against their Ace. We didn’t hit well, he said.
But Craig’s enthusiasm was undiminished as he hunted for a Game 2 ticket. And with pride, he shared the story of how his 8-year-old son has converted from an Orioles fan to a Royals fan.
“I transferred my joy,” he said, then after a pause added, “and my misery.”