I have a few favorite quotes (like everyone else I suppose) that I’ll always remember along the way:
“And oh man, why was the world so hard? Why were there so many spokes hungry for your fingers, so many gears eager to grab for your guts?”
“The bad guys need to get lucky every time. The good guys just need to get lucky once.”
“This is a cash and carry world, pay as you go. Sometimes you only have to pay a little. Mostly, it's a lot. Once in awhile...it’s all you have.”
But perhaps my favorite of them all is one that fits our situation perfectly, and it’s one likely a little less obscure:
“Go in peace. I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil”
Sunday (and even Saturday) was an emotional moment for damn near everyone. There are those who have seen success in the shade of royal blue before. I wasn’t one of them. I was of the group who have only known misery (and I’m a Mizzou fan to boot). I wandered around the baseball realm in a daze, like Leo who could stop scribbling down “Bartlet For America” on planes, trains, restaurants, and meetings. All we wanted was success.
How do you get beat up for three decades? How can you stay attached to something as a beaten bastard for your whole life? After awhile, you deserve success. You become an underdog, even in an industry that doesn’t care for such narratives. The guys on the other side of the line don’t care that your team hasn’t won a playoff game since Reagan was president. Your opponent is just a spoke, hungry for your fingers; a gear, eager to grab for your guts. If Bruce Wayne fell only to learn to pick himself back up, we fell so that we could fall again, and again, and again.
And then when we fell down again, but this time we picked ourselves up and saved the city.
There is no doubt that this season was a disappointment, just as last season was. In mid-2015, Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs asked readers whether they preferred a consistent winner, or a champion. He asked fans whether they preferred the 2012-2015 Boston Red Sox, who oscillated from being good and winning a World Series, to being bad and missing the playoffs. They might have both overachieved and underachieved in those individual seasons, but within them they won a title. The other option is the 2011-2014 Tigers, the model of regular season consistency. During those four years they won more games than any other team, and won the AL Central in each of those four years straight. Each year they found themselves playing in #October but they came up “short” each time (making the playoffs is not coming up short).
When given to task, readers strongly voted for the Red Sox span, 56% to 43%. That’s a fine decision (I however prefer consistent success), and that stretch by the Red Sox is not dissimilar to what the Royals have done from 2014-2017. There were the highs of back-to-back World Series and a title, but then the lows of 2016, and the arguably lower of 2017. No matter how the rest of your sports life goes, you’ll have those highs of 2014 and highers of 2015, even if you’ll always have to live with the low of 2016 and the lower of 2017. You’ll have that memory to cling to.
But clinging to a memory can be dangerous. Sometimes you are too busy remembering how it was, and then you can’t see how it is. I won’t say do not weep, you deserve to cling to this memory for a little while longer. Let it warm you for the winter of the offseason, but let it go slowly when the new season begins in the spring. You don’t have to forget it, dear lord no. You just have to not hold it so strongly, because you can’t ever go back.
I’ve watched, listened, or at least followed along every Royals game for the last five years. I don’t think my fanhood is any weaker, but if you know me, you may think I’m not perhaps as sentimental as most. That’s absolutely true. It’s not that I’m not attached, it’s that I see the game a little different than most. Maybe I cling to the memories a little less. It’s not that those memories don’t exist for me. I jumped off my couch and screamed to no one “he’s going to score!” as Alex Gordon rounded third base in game seven of the 2014 World Series. I hugged strangers after Salvador Perez skipped a ball past Josh Donaldson in the Wild Card game. Make no doubt, I’m a fan.
Maybe though it’s the realistic state of mind I have (neither optimistic nor pessimistic) that keeps me a step back from where other fans might be. We all enjoy the game in our own ways, but at least we all enjoyed it together.
It’s okay to let go without forgetting. Part of the reason why fans bonded to this Royals team was because they were beaten down for so long. When you have a spouse who is crappy to you, you appreciate it when someone else comes along and is good to you. It’s entirely possible that the Royals never win a World Series again. They went three decades without doing it, and in a perfect baseball world, they would win one every 30 years. Cubs fans had come and gone without seeing one, and Indians fans are still waiting 71 years running. But winning one dampens the waiting, if only a little.
So celebrate the team, for at least a little while longer. You don’t need me to recap everything that has happened over the past half decade or more, just as you don’t need me to tell you how you should feel. You can feel however you want about this team. Remember, but don’t live in the memory. That’s not what they are for. Instead, let go and just never forget (which you won’t). That’s all you can do, I suppose.