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The Royals’ season is over, even though there are games to be played

Kansas City has moved on

Sep 11, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) reacts during the second half against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.
Sep 11, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) reacts during the second half against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With only so many hours in the day, there is a finite limitation to how much entertainment we can consume. Sports is entertainment, and every hour watching the Kansas City Royals is an hour that you can’t be playing Halo or watching The Witcher’s second season that you still haven’t gotten around to yet.

But more than that, sports are the ultimate form of reality television, a type of entertainment that thrives around a communal experience. And while you can certainly watch a sports game by yourself, we all know that it is significantly more interesting to watch a game and discuss it with others. Heck, that’s why you’re probably reading this very post.

Communities, however, are a funny thing. There’s only so much energy to go around, and there are only so many subjects that can be discussed simultaneously before things start to fracture. You can whisper to a friend in a rock concert, but you can’t expect many other people to hear.

All of this is preface to the main point here: the Royals’ 2022 season is over. They will continue to play games. The consequences still matter to those who have a stake in it. But it’s over.

Royals fans can blame that, in large part, on the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs play in the National Football League, which has grown from being a simple sports league to something closer to a shared cultural experience that must be opted out of instead of opted into. And the Chiefs aren’t just an NFL team: they have been a Super Bowl contender for half a decade and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. They employ Patrick Mahomes, a nationally-recognized superstar at the height of his athletic powers.

It’s not quite fair to say that the NFL and MLB are direct competitors. But they compete for the same eyeballs in the same finite amount of entertainment time we can spend and in the same media spheres. And to compete against the NFL—Chiefs or no Chiefs—the product has to be exceptional.

Full of young players, the Royals have been interesting over the past couple months. But has the product been good? Absolutely not. Since July 26, the Royals have gone 18-27. There’s no other reasonable way to cut it: the Royals suck! They’re awful! They can’t hit and they can’t pitch and their defense is suspect and they run into outs on the basepaths all the time even though they don’t get on base very much.

It’s not inevitable that a city’s baseball team bends the knee to its football team. The Seattle Mariners are selling out games in a playoff atmosphere, and the energy is a thing of beauty. They walked a game off recently against the reigning champion Atlanta Braves, and it’s impossible not to smile at it (unless, of course, you’re a Braves fan):

But with the NFL looming over Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and with college football itself dominating Saturdays with its own unique pageantry, September competition is fierce. Why talk about the Royals when there’s Chiefs looming?

So, sure, there are 20 games left. They’re on if you can even watch them thanks to the inane MLB blackout restrictions. There’s just nothing the Royals can do that will make anybody care about them. That time was in May, but the Royals blew it then. They’re paying for it now.