The past few years have been bright for Royals fans, but the future looks dim as the shadow of economic reality sweeps closer to its inexorable rendezvous with 2018. In that year, prognosticators tell us that the light from two World Series appearances and four contending seasons will fade, spreading uncertainty and despair in the lands between the Ozarks and the Tetons. The Royals’ prophets, however significant, nevertheless foretell the inevitability of the coming darkness.
On Monday, August 21, 2017, an astronomical preview of our doom will occur along an arc 70 miles wide from Oregon to South Carolina. For almost three hours, the sun will be partially hidden by the shadow of the moon, and will vanish entirely (except for the suddenly luminous corona) for almost three minutes. The contiguous U.S. last experienced this in 1979 - any given location on Earth experiences a total solar eclipse only once every ~400 years on average. Although most of the U.S. will be able to see a partial eclipse, the narrow path of totality passes through the heart of Royals fandom, from western Wyoming to central Missouri, before exiting into the eternal shadow of Cardinals country. Anyone standing within this path will experience the Moon’s shadow racing toward, over, and past their location at a speed ranging from ~2200-1400 mph (depending on location). As David Baron wrote in his well-timed 2017 book about a similar 1878 event, American Eclipse,
“A total solar eclipse is a singular experience, not to be confused with other, more common types of eclipses…the very word–eclipse–is misleading, because what is notable is not what is hidden, but what is revealed. A total eclipse pulls back the curtain that is daytime sky, exposing what is above our heads but unseen at any other time: the solar system. Suddenly you perceive our blazing sun as never before, flanked by bright stars and planets.”
It can take absence to appreciate existence. Try to hold your breath for three minutes and your body’s reaction will tell you of the importance of air. Block the sun at midday and the unnatural dim chill, the daytime birds going to roost, and the night creatures stirring all offer a vivid reminder of our reliance on light. Totality masks the sun like a cheating ex’s face photoshopped from a family gathering - the empty space can’t entirely hide what should be there. In the same way, the Royals’ early plunge from contention this season briefly masked the joy of the past few years and reminded us that, for Royals fans, the eclipse has long been the norm. Enjoy the light while you can.
Sadly, no MLB games will be played during the full eclipse. Kansas City and St. Louis are the only MLB cities along the path of totality and neither team plays that day. Atlanta is the closest city hosting a game, but not until 7:30 that evening, about 5 hours after the eclipse’s center passes ~115 miles to the northeast. The Twins are currently listed as hosting a double-header but the times aren’t clear. This means that Royals fans can take matters into their own hands and head for an ideal eclipse-watching spot. NASA’s excellent eclipse site includes this interactive Google Map showing the path of totality; click anywhere to get a full reading of exact times for the durations of partial and total conditions. Here are a few suggestions within the heart of Royals fandom (all times converted from NASA’s data in UTC, which is five hours ahead of Central Daylight Time):
- Columbia, MO sits just north of the centerline, with partial conditions from ~11:45-14:40 and totality from ~13:12-13:15. Consider heading to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, a huge expanse of Missouri River bottomland with extensive views that sits just barely south of the centerline.
- Kansas City, MO sits on the southern edge of totality. The Liberty Memorial and Kaufmann Stadium are just south of the zone, but downtown squeaks in. At the River Market area, partial conditions will last from ~11:41-14:36 with totality from ~13:08-13:09.
- St. Joseph, MO abuts the centerline, with partial conditions from 11:40-14:34 and totality from ~13:06-13:09. Youngdahl Urban Conservation Area or the campus of Missouri Western State University might be good observation sites.
- Lincoln, NE falls just inside the northern edge of totality (Omaha is out of luck), but head west to Grand Island and you’re back on the centerline. As for specific viewing locations, if you can’t find an unobstructed view of the midday sun on the Plains, you’re doing it wrong.
However, there can only be one true spot for Royals fans to gather and observe this extraordinary event. Grass Creek, WY, the halfway point beyond which the Royals’ enlightened influence fades beneath the Mariners’ dark shadow, lies just north of totality’s path. 60 miles southwest, a bit south of Dubois, lies the spot on Whiskey Mountain (43.4243° N, 109.6188° W) at which Max Totality will occur at 17:38 UTC. The importance of this sacred number, which laid the foundation for the Royals’ World-Series-winning 2015 season, should lead all true Royals fans to make a pilgrimage. Moreover, the totality centerline of the 1878 eclipse crosses that of the 2017 eclipse within a few miles of this location. Perhaps, if enough true fans gather at this special site witness the renewal of the sun, Jarrod Dyson will return to lead the Royals in one last mad dash to glory.
Note: If you’re looking for even lighter reading than David Baron’s engaging science-history book, I highly recommend the novel Nightfall by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverburg. An 1990 expansion of Asimov’s 1941 short story, it tells the story of a planet with six suns, whose complex movements keep the planet in eternal light such that true darkness (and the cosmos beyond) are unknown. Until, that is, astronomers’ calculations suggest the unthinkable: that the suns could one day align and plunge half the planet into darkness, madness, and the potential collapse of society. It’s a light but gripping read, whose core narrative is well-captured by the observation of Charles Piazzi Smyth, a 19th-century Scottish Astronomer Royal, that:
“In fact, the general scene of a total eclipse, is a potent Siren’s song, which no human mind can withstand…for its effects on the minds of men are so overpowering.” (credit to Baron’s book for originally digging up this quote.)
SAFETY FIRST! Don’t be an idiot and look at the sun without proper eye protection. Go to NASA’s site or another reputable source of information to learn about safe observation methods.