Since I was a young child I have been a baseball fan. Not just a baseball fan, but a Kansas City Royals fan, cheering on my local boys in blue. For most of my life, that has meant cheering for a losing team. Not just any losing team, but an embarrassingly bad losing team. A team that sent Mark Redman to the All-Star Game, had nineteen game losing streaks because outfielders dropped the final out of the game, and had this happen because - Ken Harvey.
Then, a few years ago, my life completely changed. The Royals began winning. It started innocently enough. They won 86 games in 2013, enough to make you feel like they were kind of in the pennant race, but not enough to be taken seriously. It could be passed off as a fluke, an accident. I didn't even consult my doctor about it.
Then it happened again. The Royals won 89 games, went on an amazing post-season run, won the pennant, and captured the attention of the entire nation. Even then, it was obvious the symptoms were there, but I didn't want to believe it was anything more than a phase. I was in denial.
Then came this year. There was little doubt anymore. The symptoms became impossible to ignore. A full Kauffman Stadium. Nationally televised games. Post-game celebrations. A feeling of pride. I had to admit - I was the fan of a winning baseball team.
I said it could never happen to me.
Winning baseball is a condition that afflicts millions of baseball fans each year. While many Royals fans are still ashamed to admit they have this condition, it is time to end the stigma of winning baseball in Kansas City. Together, we can bring awareness and possibly even acceptance of this condition. If you are the fan of a winning baseball team, here are some ways to cope with your new condition.
1. Find new things to complain about with your manager
Often with lousy teams, the manager's moves can be scrutinized on a nightly basis. With lousy relievers in the pen, every decision is fraught with peril and can be second-guessed. Back in the day, we argued over whether Todd Wellemeyer should have come into the game, or should they have left Mike Wood in to get out of the jam? It was like arguing whether it would be better to be dropped into a vat of boiling animal entrails, or impaled by a rusty trident.
However, when you have possibly one of the best bullpens ever constructed by man, it becomes difficult to second-guess moves when you never blow a lead. Sure, lineup construction is still a point of criticism, but what do you do while the team is hitting .290?
You can still feel like you are a baseball fan by nitpicking other things a manager does. Maybe he's not wearing his hat quite right, or maybe in his post-game comments he said "irregardless" instead of "regardless." Grammar correction is always a great way to vent frustration, and baseball managers are often the poorest practitioners of the language. The important thing is, you don't have to feel left out of managerial criticism simply because your team is now winning ballgames.
2. Plan your trip to the ballpark in advance
When the Royals were annually losing 100 games per season, people avoided Kauffman Stadium like the plague. Back in those days, if you had a sudden craving for cotton candy, you could zip down to the stadium five minutes before game time, park in the front row, and be in your seat by first pitch with the entire row to yourself. Your ticket, parking, two bags of cotton candy, three hot dogs, and the starting shortstop could all be purchased for a few bucks.
One of the most upsetting symptoms of a winning baseball team is that suddenly everyone wants to see them play. This inflates prices, making a trip to the ballpark very expensive. Stupid free market!
More fans means more traffic, so plan your trip to the ballpark in advance and remember to fill out all the necessary paperwork to take out a loan to pay for tickets. While the team may not play like bumbling idiots on the field anymore, you can still reminisce about the good ol' days when we clung to the hope of Kyle Davies turning things around.
3. Complain about the nationally televised broadcast
Having a winning team means your team will be broadcast on national television more, at least on days in which the Red Sox and/or Yankees are not interested in appearing. This puts your team in the spotlight, which is great, but it also puts your opposition in the spotlight, which must mean the national broadcast is biased against your team and the producer personally hates you and wants you to throw things at the television.
Having a nationally televised game on TV means having a national broadcast crew, not the guys who have been following the team all season. This crew has to follow all thirty teams in baseball, so you can revel in the fact they mispronounced the name of your starting second baseman's history teacher, as they clearly do not follow your team as closely as you do! Just remember, this oversight is not an honest mistake, but is probably part of some larger conspiracy to keep your team from ever enjoying success.
4. Smile and enjoy the ride
Turn that frown upside down, mister! Your hands, once folded across your chest in disgust, can now be used to "cheer" your team on, by banging them against each other in a process called "clapping." You can still point one finger at the team, but instead of the middle one, try using your pointer finger, to express that they are "#1."
While we are all used to the bottom dropping out (18-11, never forget!), winning teams seem to experience soul-crushing bad luck less often than bad teams. With talented players, good things actually seem to happen. Even better, this group of players who are actually good at playing baseball, happen to be fun guys to root for as well. It is okay to smile, cheer, and let the otters run free.
While there are legitimate reasons to be concerned for the team's future, this club has shown themselves to be a pretty good team for quite awhile now. The team will go through some ups and downs this year, but this is part of being the fan of a normal baseball team now. You are now the fan of a normal, winning baseball team. The first step is acceptance of your condition. Just know, you are not alone.