To be honest, I am not a big fan of Garth Brooks. I’m just not a big fan of modern country music in general, which more often than not bears a striking resemblance to Bo Burnham’s scathing satire of the industry than anything I’d rather listen to. There are some country artists I really enjoy—Chris Stapleton being one—but if you had offered me tickets to Saturday’s Brooks concert at Arrowhead, I would have rather given them to someone who would honestly enjoy the experience.
I say this because it is necessary and important background to lend credence to what I want to say: bring back Friends in Low Places for the sixth inning. People who liked the song will obviously want it back. I do not like the song, and even I want it back. Here’s why.
Ever since Royals fans vo voted it out from its Crown Vision, sixth inning home in 2014, we have been met with a never-ending deluge of mediocrity and forgettable songs. Not that some of these songs are bad—Don’t Stop Believing is a timeless bop—but they are all deeply lacking in that nobody cares about them at all. Have you seen anybody at the stadium do literally anything when Centerfield by John Fogerty comes on? No.
But, man, when Garth played during the sixth inning, everyone got into it. Do you remember when Garth appeared on the video board and the entire stadium put their arms around each other, swayed back and forth, and sung together, hammered because they just watched Sidney Ponson give up six runs in two innings and Mark Teahen strike out four times? That was fantastic (the singing, not the Royals stinking part).
To be certain, fans voted Garth out. A lot of people hated it, myself included at the time. We couldn’t see why people liked it, and we didn’t see any purpose to it. It certainly didn’t help the Royals; looking back at the Royals’ records during those years, Friends in Low Places was less a rallying cry for an exciting team and more of a description of the Royals themselves.
We simply missed the point. See, the sixth inning is like any other inning, other than a higher-than-usual chance of Trey Hillman or Ned Yost or Mike Matheny or whoever is managing to make a boneheaded bullpen decision (and even then, lots of managers screw up in a similar fashion). The only reason to have a specific sixth inning song is to foster community and tradition. Sweet Caroline wasn’t always a thing for Boston or the Red Sox, but people liked it, and it became a thing. And in 2013, after the Boston Marathon Bombings, the song became a bit of a rallying point for a reeling city. Neil Diamond himself traveled to Boston to perform the song. Sales of the song surged.
It should be noted that some people hate Sweet Caroline. As much as it’s loved, there are a significant portion of people who detest it. They want it voted out. Replaced. Sent packing. Sound familiar?
Garth Brooks is not from Kansas City. He’s an Oklahoman who didn’t grow up with the team. And yet, the team and the musician have forged a bond through the years. The relationship began 17 years ago in 2004 Spring Training, and has continued ever since. Brooks filmed the famed Sixth Inning video in 2008, personally donated to the Urban Youth Academy in 2017, and invited a quintet of Royals players to the stage with him during his performance of Friends in Low Places at the Sprint Center that same year.
You could argue that you don’t need a song that people care about in a sports game, and that’s a valid enough point. But it’s a boring one. Sports are entertainment, and Friends in Low Places in the sixth inning is unique entertainment, and no entertainment is without its critics. So, let’s #BringBackGarth. You cannot create tradition by force of will. Bring the real tradition back.