I went to the Wild Card Game. When James Shields threw the first pitch—a strike—the stadium erupted like I had never heard it before, and that was only strike one. The energy was electric, almost physical, as if the ghosts of thousands of Royals fans traversed the nether to also watch what would be one of the greatest baseball contests in recent memory with the living. I remember the crack of Salvador Perez’s bat, the absolute joy of tens of thousands screaming hoarse bellows of emotion as Christian Colon rounded to score the winning run.
That is, of course, an outlier of an experience, even when compared to normal playoff baseball, which is a blast. I watched one of the ALDS games in 2015 at Kauffman Stadium, and it was awesome, but I don’t have visceral memories of that game.
In contrast, I went to a game a few weeks ago. The Royals scored a billion runs against the Minnesota Twins. Kansas City was hilariously out of any playoff race, but it was a fun game to watch regardless despite the Royals bad record and high chance of losing. In fact, it was precisely because the Royals were bad and had a high chance of losing.
Those tickets to that Royals/Twins game were $12 a piece. They were in the third row of section 421. There was no traffic to get there. No waiting to pay for parking. We parked relatively close. While we left a little early, I know from experience that leaving the game during those hours is pretty much a pain-free experience. And if the Royals lost, eh, whatever.
Contrast this with one of the multiple games I saw in 2014 and 2015 during the regular season. Parking was a mess. Ticket prices were much higher, on both primary and secondary markets. Heavy traffic made us miss first pitch more than once. And the stress of watching the Royals need to win was somewhat unnerving.
That is not to say that I did not enjoy those games. I did. That is not to say that it isn’t fun to watch a good team. It is not. It is, in fact, much better to watch a good team than a bad team.
What I am saying is that going to baseball games at Kauffman Stadium when the Royals are bad is an underrated experience. Tickets are cheaper, parking is easier, traffic is practically nonexistent, and games are less stressful. When you can watch a game in a room at your house on a giant TV with a bunch of your friends and carryout from Jack Stack, unlimited beverages at your disposal, and in sweet air conditioning, any other barrier to spending upwards of a hundred dollars and an entire afternoon or evening to go to the ballpark has an outsize influence.
I, too, would rather the Royals be good. But when they aren’t, the ballpark experience is a hell of a lot more convenient. And after all, baseball is still baseball. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see something special.