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A Fan's Notes: Our Time


The greatest week in Kansas City sports history played out on a grand stage. Seventeen million viewers saw the underdog Chiefs snuff out the New England Patriots’ dynasty on Monday Night Football, while Arrowhead’s fans reclaimed its Guinness-Book record for world’s loudest stadium.

Of course, that was a mere preamble to Tuesday, when the Kansas City Royals let loose one of the most exhilarating playoff games of all time, the kind of reality TV that even non-sports fans couldn’t resist.   

By Wednesday, in his White House welcome for MLS Champ Sporting KC—let’s not forget them—President Obama had to admit: “It’s a pretty good day to be from Kansas City.” Then this, from ESPN: “Kansas City, the sports Mecca of the universe.” And the week had hardly begun. By Sunday night, the Royals, improbably yet resolutely, had swept away the best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Angels, and had fun doing it.

The sports nation is hooked, in love with the Royals’ aggressive, speed-based style of play that seems perfectly suited for their first postseason in 29 years. The national media can’t get enough of the whole “party like its 1985” theme, with way too many references to New Coke and Microsoft Windows 1.0. Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, The Golden Girls, The Goonies… Thank you—we know how long it’s been.

Down here, it’s our time. It’s our time down here. Let the rest of the world watch and wonder; this is a local story.

How can anyone outside Kansas City truly understand this new feeling of invincibility and inevitability, this sense that anything can happen—and, at the same time, that there’s nothing to lose? This is what happens when, for so many years, the question wasn’t “when,” or even “if.” We’ve just assumed that—without a tricked-out DeLorean—1985 would never come again. And yet, this was our team.

A team that needs every infield hit and extra inning, and finds a way to get them. “Two outs, nobody on” just means they might be about to score. Every slapdash single, every stolen base is cause for a champagne celebration.

This couldn’t happen anywhere else. Have you seen the St. Louis Cardinals’ post-game interviews? It’s hard to tell whether they’ve won. And whatever odds-makers think will happen next in Baltimore, we know which team is the favorite.

I’ve long said that if the Royals only win the World Series once, I’m glad they did it when I was 11. Whatever—I was just a kid. What did I know of this kind of magic? What did I know then of sports-induced suffering…and sweet relief?

Last week, we discovered how it feels to vanquish the demons—and then the Angels. It was written on the face of Hall of Famer George Brett, who’d had to bear this team’s faded mantle for far too long.

Baseball, perhaps more than other sports, is meant to be shared from one generation to the next—though perhaps not this literally. We can watch our children living out our own childhood memories, while wondering wistfully about loved ones now watching from that big upper deck in the sky.

They see Kauffman Stadium quaking unlike any other Major League park. They see the Plaza fountains running blue and folks across town enjoying wear-your-Royals-gear-to-work day, every day. And baby boys…named Salvy.

And as much as we’ve embraced these Royals, they’ve hugged back. This team would rather celebrate on the field with the crowd—or at a downtown bar, where Eric Hosmer famously ran up a twenty-thousand-dollar tab for hundreds of his closest fans. When these Royals chant “We Ready,” their adopted anthem for the season, they mean “we.”

That’s all of us, from the players to the fans—to everyone who didn’t know until last week, the greatest week, that they were fans. We’re all just happy to be here.

And so far…it’s working.


Victor Wishna is a contributing author and commentator for Up to Date.
As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.