While we're all much more than just being Royals fans, it is the tie that binds us. What brought you to the Royals' front stoop knocking on the door to be let in? Perhaps more importantly, why did you stay?
I have kind of a strange Royals-fandom timeline. I remember watching some games growing up, going out to the ballpark once or twice, but never really "getting" baseball until I was 16 years old. It was 2003, I had just started a job at a local retail store, and the employees there wanted to put the Royals game on the radio while we worked. I wondered, why would they want to do that? And they explained, "Because we’re 3-0!" And so I listened, and we won, and I listened again the next day, and we won, and I suddenly found myself mystified by their magical 9-0 start to the season. When they finally lost their first game of the season, I already knew their rotation and most of the lineup, after having not followed baseball closely in my entire life. I was hooked, man.
Why did I stay? That’s the real question, isn’t it? I may never know the answer for sure. Maybe it was because I am a numbers guy, and baseball is full of numbers. Maybe it was because I am a Kansas City guy, and they’re a Kansas City team. Maybe it was because I am an underdog fan, and they were probably lucky to be even called underdogs for much of my early fandom. Maybe I’m a masochist? After all, the fun ride in 2003, as everyone knows, was basically complete torture for the next decade. Maybe I thought, if this franchise can turn things around, there’s hope for any sports team. Maybe I felt like the only way that watching every Royals baseball game could possibly waste more of my time would be if I quit before it got better.
So unlike many of us, it doesn't sound like your parents are to blame/thank for your fandom. Rather it was fool's gold leading to ten years in the dumps. Did you get your family to share in your sports misery, or were you forced to suffer alone?
My dad is definitely an enthusiastic fan, but you are correct, he didn't have anything to do with me coming to my Royals fandom. He was aware of what was going on with the team in the dark years, but I wouldn't say he was on the level that most hardcore Royals-torture fans were on. If I asked him today who Aaron Guiel, Ryan Shealy, Shane Costa, and Emil Brown were, he'd know. So that counts, I suppose. My mom and sister are currently totally into the team, but that didn't start until last year's playoffs.
Standard dating profile questions: Age? Sex? Height? Hair color? Marital status? Kids?
28, Male, 6’, Brown, Single, None.
While many choose not to define themselves by their job, what do you do to make ends meet? For how long have you been plying that trade?
Currently I am a tech support analyst at Cerner. My career path has been… interesting. I went to KU for Journalism and got hired at an ad agency in town to do some media-related stuff after going heavy on the sports-radio focus in college. I moved to the IT help desk there after a few years when they needed some Windows tech support, and I had proven I knew my way around Windows well enough for that. I learned a lot from the great group of guys in the IT department. Moved on to Cerner this past summer and have been loving it so far. I am an Excel guru, and I love mental math and statistics.
While being a tech support analyst isn't what you probably envisioned for yourself (given what you studied at least), do you like the work? It is different from what you went to school for, but do you feel like being it is a better fit for you?
I love the work. I'm so thankful to not be in an industry that is stagnant and lowly-compensated such as journalism. I love to write, and part of me will always wonder what kind of shenanigans I would have gotten into doing reporting or covering sports, but I do believe that I'm on the right track and this is better suited for my skills. If I hadn't have gotten a shot at the tech support job in the first place, I'm not sure I'd be very happy with my career right now. Instead I'm thrilled!
If the internet didn't put the pillow to the face of journalism as we know it, do you think you would feel differently? If money, debt, etc., weren't such an important factor in the equation, what do you think you would do?
That's a really interesting question, considering the inevitable death of traditional journalism is hard to remove from my feelings about journalism. Same thing with the lack of competitive wages in the field, it's hard to imagine journalism if it were thriving and in huge demand. I love writing, so I would definitely be much more likely to hold a journalism job if it paid better and seemed to be a healthy industry. Maybe in a parallel universe somewhere, everyone worships the rock star reporters and poor people play baseball to grind out paychecks...
Where do you live now, and where did you grow up?
I live in Roeland Park and I grew up in Prairie Village. I moved to Kansas City when I was in first grade from a small town in the middle of Kansas called Russell (home of Bob Dole!), so living in Kansas City is all I have known, other than my time in Lawrence going to KU.
What was your childhood like? What did your parents do? What spurred them to leave Russell behind?
My childhood was a lot of fun. My parents weren't overbearing by any means, and they let me and my three siblings (older sister, older brother, younger brother) do most of what we pleased without a lot of micromanaging. We are an easygoing bunch. My dad is in insurance/worker's comp stuff, and my mom is an elementary school teacher. I think they left Russell because the job market was better in Kansas City, but we've never really talked about why specifically we moved. I should go ask them!
What is your educational background/area of study?
I touched on this a little already, but I studied Journalism at KU with a heavy focus on the sports radio portion of it. I was involved a lot with KJHK, the student-run radio station, and that allowed me to go to some great KU basketball games and (gasp!) football games when the team was actually really good. They won the Orange Bowl my junior year in 2008, and the basketball national championship a few months later. Unfortunately for me, I had decided to spend that Spring semester abroad studying in Italy, which was incredibly amazing but cost me a chance to celebrate the championship in Lawrence like I had always dreamed of. I have many, many great stories from my three months spent traveling in Europe.
Did your studies in pursuit of a degree in Journalism take you down any other paths that particularly piqued your interests? Did you go into school with the intent to study Journalism, or did you come to it part-way through school?
I went into college trying to be a Computer Science major of some kind, but Calculus for Engineers was my undoing in my freshman year. I always loved math, but I don't think I was quite ready for the workload, and I had to drop the class. That kind of pushed me away from my initial major choice. I knew I liked to write and I loved KU sports, so after attending a Journalism 101 class I decided on the switch. Never gave another major a shot, although I'm really into space exploration. If I could do it all over again, I might have chosen some sort of astro-science route.
Have you ever considered going back to school to incur more debt and chase the astro-science dream, or is your educational run finished?
Ha! No, I have not. I don't think I have the discipline to go back to school, and I need to work a full-time job to pay for life, so fitting school in there too isn't something I'd be prepared to do. I will just settle for reading interesting Space posts on Reddit and reading science fiction and dreaming, I suppose.
Where in Italy did you study? Did you speak any Italian at the time? While there, where did you get to travel? Does having lived overseas in the past make you yearn for the opportunity to do so again? Regale us with some of those stories.
Man, there probably isn't enough room in this piece for me to tell as many stories and anecdotes from my time in Italy as I would prefer, but I'll hit some of the major talking points.
I studied in a tiny town an hour north of Venice called Paderno del Grappa.
I had taken two years of Italian at KU before that semester, and while it helped on reading road signs and menus and having a fun conversation attempt with the very kind locals, I would in no way have classified myself as fluent in either speaking or listening. I knew enough to be a bit useful every now and then.
We had many opportunities to travel, and I used them to take many group-weekend trips. In total I went to Paris, Dublin, London, Vienna, Prague, Munich, Milan, Rome, Venice, and Barcelona.
I love America, and while I will always treasure my time spent in Europe, I don't think I'd consider moving unless Trump really runs this place into the ground. So with that being said maybe I should start looking at European real estate...
Most of my stories from my time abroad center around having a really good time with an awesome group of 120 college kids. We were staying in a converted boarding school, so there were dorm rooms and class rooms all in the same building complex. There were 60 kids from KU and 60 more from schools around the country, and I made some absolutely lifelong friends in those three months. Lots of drinking, lots of laughing, and lots of living life.
The one story that I always enjoy telling is the night of the 2008 National Championship basketball game. It was Kansas versus Memphis, and with 60 KU students out of our group of 120, we had a large turnout for the watch party. For a game that started at 5:40 AM on a Tuesday morning. And of course, we didn't wake up early for the game, but rather stayed up the night before. We watched crowded around a break room television that was hooked up to the Armed Forces Network for the American military to catch games. When Mario Chalmers hit the game-tying three, the whole place went absolutely bonkers. After the win, we ran out onto the soccer field on school grounds and drank and partied... for 15 minutes, before our 8:00 classes started. We attended class hammered, delighted, and exhausted. We explained to our native Italian teacher that we had celebrated a championship the night before, and she was very kind as a student pulled a classroom trashcan over to his desk to throw up into, and another was passed out in her desk, head in her arms. It was a glorious night indeed, even if we were all getting cellphone videos from back home of our friends partying on Mass Street. I have never been more homesick in my entire life than that day.
Of the extra-Italian places you visited, did you have a favorite? Where there places you're dying to go revisit to explore more?
Rome was incredible. I would say that was probably my favorite Italian city I visited. It was really crazy to go through the Coliseum and the Vatican and try to get a sense for all of the history that has passed through those places. It was a very different view on the world than what I was used to, and I think that was one of the feelings that will stay with me the longest. I would love to back to Dublin and Barcelona. Both cities had amazing atmospheres and were very welcoming to tourists.
As you have made the transition away from sports radio in your professional life, have your feelings on the medium changed at all? Was the move away from it out of convenience/happenstance, or was it something you consciously wanted to do?
I have a very love/hate relationship with sports radio. I know what it takes to put a show together, I know how stressful and fun doing a show can be, and I know that most of the guys who do the radio shows are just good dudes who really like sports. But wow does it get on my nerves. They have to fill too much air time, so many of their topics are paper thin and pointless conversations.
I don't like a couple of the local radio personalities at all, but I will go out of my way to listen to Danny Parkins and Carrington Harrison on 610's The Drive, weekdays from 2-6. They are the best, and they have conversations the way I have them with my buddies. They're not trying to say anything that they don't believe, and they'll tell the real story regardless of the political ramifications. They're the best.
My move away from focusing on sports radio was probably one of convenience, as I didn't land a gig after college that involved radio, but it was also a conscious decision. I never liked how much of my time was spent on sports when I did the radio shows. I would watch SportsCenter in my free time, BS about sports with my buddies while hanging out, prepare for the radio show, do the radio show, talk about sports with my radio buddies... It was just too much overexposure. I love sports, they're a huge passion of mine, but I was burning out and wanted to keep them enjoyable.
With the understanding that obviously baseball and the Royals are an area of interest for you, what other hobbies and interests do you have?
In no particular order, I love to read or watch anything science-fiction related, am an avid video game player (mostly PS4 with some PC games also), and am obsessed with outer space, the idea of intelligent alien life, and the future, I have a black lab named Russell who is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I love to memorize song lyrics. However, if you asked anyone who had ever met me what the one thing they would associate me with, they would almost unanimously all cite my obsession with the Royals. It has been the single most defining characteristic of my life for at least the past decade.
Are there particular areas or series in the genre that you favor over others? What are some of your favorite works in the arena of science fiction?
My favorite book of all time is Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. I read it when I was in seventh grade, and it spoke to me in ways that fiction rarely has since. Card really knows how to write believable characters, and I credit much of my writing style to reading his work from an early age. Ender's Game is part of a series of books, which is certainly my favorite in the genre.
What video games are floating your boat right now?
Minecraft. I can't shake Minecraft. I've been playing it since Beta (2011, I think?), and I always come back to it. It's very simple in concept and very complex in execution. The hours I've spent playing that game are probably a little embarrassing, but I wouldn't take any of it back. Just a brilliant game. Rocket League is also on my short list right now. Gameplay is basically perfect, and the devs still support it with updates and new arenas and things like that. Those two games are absolute home runs.
Why do you enjoy memorizing song lyrics? Does this interest only apply to music that you enjoy listening to or is this a cross-genre habit that bears no influence by whether you like the song? Who are some of your favorite songsmiths?
I don't really know! I've done it as long as I can remember. I especially like memorizing rap. There are probably, I don't know, 50 or more rap songs on my Spotify playlist that I know literally every spoken word to. Not just chorus and a few bars, I really enjoy remembering words for some reason. I definitely have to enjoy listening to the music though because if I don't like it I won't listen to it long enough to memorize it. I'd take no pleasure in remembering all of a Justin Beiber song, but I've got pretty much every word down for many Eminem songs, as well as guys like Childish Gambino, Atmosphere, and Run the Jewels. On the rock side of things, I'm a big fan of Modest Mouse, Incubus, Death Cab for Cutie, Spoon, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
What's the best thing you've read in recent memory? Describe it as though you were trying to convince someone else that they should read it.
The Expanse is an epic science-fiction book series that is part Game of Thrones, Foundation, and Ender’s Game. The series takes place two hundred years in the future and follows the case of a missing girl which brings a detective and a spaceship captain together in a race across the solar system to expose an elaborate conspiracy. It has crazy technology, tons of cursing, a memorable cast of characters, and a hit TV show. Definitely worth checking out.
We all have a long list of stupid shit that we've done. What's the dumbest thing you've done?
I will not be crazy enough to post the absolute dumbest things I’ve done for the whole world to see, but there are still a lot of things that come to mind. Paying for my entire college education, including an insanely expensive semester abroad, entirely out of student loan money was probably the most impactfully stupid mistake of my life. Still paying for that one every day, a decade later…
Do you ever regret having gone to college? What would you have done differently?
I think part of me does, sure. The financial part is just a killer. I wasted a ton of money by putting the whole thing on student loans because to me the concept of student loans was that I'd be totally able to pay them all back without much of a burden on my every day life as soon as I got out of college. Reality obviously is a bit different, and they crippled a lot of what I wanted to do financially to this day. However, in the end, I would not take back my college experience. I'm the man I am today because of the adventures I had in college, and my entire group of friends would be different today, which is a scarily-unknown quantity, considering how attached to them I have become. No, in the end I learned some valuable life lessons about what it means to sign up for loans and debt, and I'm sure I am stronger for the lesson, or some such nonsense like that.
What things had you hoped to do at this point that debt has kept you from doing?
I don't want to give the impression that my college debt has ruined my life or that I'm depressed because of it or anything like that. I just wish I had some perspective on how affordable the payments would be from the beginning. I still have a good car, a healthy library of Playstation games, I've been able to afford to go to every Royals playoff game over the last two years, and I'm not on welfare or anything that extreme. I've made it work.
It was just a big reality check when I learned how hard I'd have to work and how much I'd have to pay, for decades, because of the loans. Student loans totally blow, everyone who is reading this and has them knows that much, and if you're reading this and you don't have them, thank your lucky stars. They can be an incredibly big financial burden, but at the end of the day you have to be smart about how much is in your budget no matter how much debt you have. I just chalk it up to a major life lesson, but I would say the one thing that it has definitely kept me from doing is having a savings account. I'm almost 29 and I don't have any money saved up, which would really stress me out if I let it. But everyone's got stress, and I don't consider mine to be very significant, and for that I am thankful.
Plus, the Royals just won the FREAKING WORLD SERIES, so nothing is really that bad when you think about it.
Describe yourself in three sentences or less.
I am obsessed with the Royals, my faith in humanity is much higher than it has any right to be, and I hope I impact everyone I meet in a positive way.
What Royals Reviewer would you be most interested to meet in person? Why?
Probably Scott McKinney? I have enjoyed most of what he’s had to say over the years, and he seems like an interesting dude. I’d like to know how much royalcoffee’s real life persona is like how I imagine him. I’d like to give Max and the rest of you Kevins a fist bump for all of your amazing work on my favorite place on the internet.