I was trying to figure out my favorite part about the 2014 Kansas City Royals post-season, and like the late-nacho lunch I should’ve stopped eating sooner, it hit me. It’s not that I am too young to recall the last K.C. berth. I remember it -- along with shades of the 1980 World Series vs. Philly -- well. It’s not that this team stumbled in various phases of the season before ripping off an unprecedented eight straight wins. It’s not that the thing got hairy and thrilling in the fall classic and took us all the way to the proverbial two-out, two-strike, bottom-of-the-ninth, World Series game seven moment. And it wasn’t that the run was great for the franchise, the fans, and the city. All those things -- be they overstated or lacking in resonation -- were true.
It’s not that Royals owner David Glass’ hire of General Manager Dayton Moore has been a test of a fan base’s endurance, or that the hire became the epitomal pleasant surprise (which it did) when it turned out to be the right one (which it was), or that Moore constructed the club in the precise fashion -- Latin American scouting, pitching, and a farm system -- in which he said he would do (which he did). All those things were and are -- even if they don’t traverse the 2014 season -- wonderful truths.
The greatest part about that Royals run wasn’t that it made baseball matter again. Make no mistake, though: it did just that with precision. That statement isn’t about calling people out or pretending there aren’t long-time season-ticket holders, or disacknowledging the die-hards. It’s more about pinning down a sport -- generations of Chiefs fans replace their predecessors, the college-team divide line is just as thick as it’s ever been, and yeah…there’re the soccer fans -- that almost everyone in the metro got behind together at around the same time. As someone whose childhood was oft-filled with dreams of playing professional baseball for the Kansas City Royals, making baseball matter again was exciting, but it wasn’t the greatest part.
Nine months ago I put together a piece on the 2014 men’s Olympic hockey team and somewhere in that scrawl I mentioned that this country too seldom joins hands; when it does it does so for a cause that wants to display a national sense of solidarity to the world. That run, that gut-wrenching, breathtaking playoff run exhibited by the Kansas City Royals Baseball Club in October 2014 ignited a unity fueled on unbridled, delirious joy. And together, we strayed from our pillows and challenged our throats and punished our livers, and together, we lived and died with the guys in that dugout. We swore we couldn’t take any more then cursed at the off-days that offered respite from the first-pitch jitters.
Not that anybody sought it, but there was no escape from the energy. The buzz saturated the media, trickled in to barber shops and post offices. It hovered at bus stops, distracted work productions, and took up residence in every bar.
The increased pace at which time passes with age remains a phenomenon that overwhelms a touch more every year, and it’s easy to find a family member, friend, or even a stranger that will agree to having lost track of the previous week or two. Together Kansas City lost October and found one another. And that -- that -- was the greatest thing. The sport of it and the civic pride were awesome, but the unity was the star of the show. Even though that crazy ride halted at the catch of a pop foul -- a pop foul! -- it was a month, even if we can’t find it today, that we will never forget.
Our team was 90 feet from one last comeback, one last tax of the nerves, one last reason to hope. I'd wager there are a million cinematic parallels one could draw to the baseball season we watched conclude a week ago last night. Only one comes to mind, though, and it was Red from The Shawshank Redemption who said it best: “Hope is a dangerous thing.”