Sports are often uplifting, yet there are other times when sports are downright depressing—as in this instance shared by Justin Ricklefs
In Kansas City, something magical happened in October. In an improbable run to the World Series, the Royals captivated an entire city and captured our hearts once again.
It had been a long time, 29 years to be exact, since they had that effect on KC. Over those years, Royals fans oscillated between anger and apathy. Frustration to forget about them.
But this fall was different. #BlueOctober and #TakeTheCrown were mainstream hashtags. An entire city was unified quicker than any politician’s promises could even be spoken.
Entire generations of working professionals in this city had never seen a Royals playoff game. All of that changed as the Royals raced out of the playoff gates with a never-before-seen 8-0 record. It started with a Wild Card win over the A’s in dramatic fashion. Then a three game sweep of the regular-season best Angels. Then a four game sweep of the media favorite Orioles.
Then the World Series against the budding dynasty in San Francisco. The Giants won game one convincingly. Then the Royals took games two and three. The Giants then took games four and five. The series returned to KC and the Royals put the hammer down in game six.
For sports fans, that’s the only sentence you need. Game 7 signifies it all. Everything. For all the marbles. The chance to take the crown.
By this point, Kansas City was on cloud nine. Apparel was sold out everywhere, at least sizes that actually fit. Productivity at work was at an all-time low. School attendance was about the same. But excitement and anticipation was through the roof.
“Let’s Go Royals” chants broke out in coffee shops and tire shops. Bakeries and bars. Church lobbies and city centers.
At night in the beautiful Kauffman Stadium. My wife and I actually had tickets to go that night, but we couldn’t imagine not being with our five kids when we took the crown.
The joy we experienced watching them throughout the postseason run was priceless. That and the fact that ticket prices were at an all-time high made it an easy decision to sell.
Kamden, our oldest daughter, asked if Eric Hosmer would still be single when she’s old enough to get married. She’s 10.
Addi, our second daughter, made countless Royals signs out of any material she could find – paper, Legos or otherwise. She’s eight.
Rowan, our third daughter, made up endless poems, songs and chants. She’s seven.
Silas, our only son, asked if he could “throw fire” like Yordano Ventura when he turned five. He’s four.
Henley, our fourth daughter, really only cared about getting to stay up late and eating junk food. She’s three.
So we piled into the basement of some of our best friends’ house. The Royal blue gear was on. The BBQ was made. The Tank 7 beer from Boulevard was cold. The excitement was thick.
Never in a million years, or at least in 29, did we consider that we’d lose that night. It was too perfect. Win at home. In front of a championship starved stadium and city. Everything pointed to a win.
We couldn’t hit Bumgarner until Alex Gordon did in the bottom of the 9th. It all set up perfectly. Bottom of the 9th. Two outs. Tying run at 3rd. Sal Perez, our beloved catcher, at the dish. A fanbase ready to explode. A championship parade route that was already planned. Champagne ready to be popped.
And then he popped up. And Pablo Sandoval clinched Game 7 in foul territory in his glove. What was supposed to be a wild night of Royals celebrations switched instantly to a disbelieving spectacle of Giants players celebrating on our field.
It was nearing 11 o’clock and the real world would start back over at 8am the next morning with work and school. It was time to get our kids home and get them in bed.
But something happened over that last month of late nights, extra innings and baseball fever. Our five kids feel deeply in love with the Boys in Blue.
It started slowly as they tried to suppress it, a feeling unknown to them before that night. They made it all the way to the car. We said our goodbye’s and our get-em-next-years.
And then in the backseats, it all came out. Little tears that turned into uncontrollable sobs. Heartbreak.
I tweeted this that night:
— Justin Ricklefs (@justinricklefs) October 30, 2014
They cried because they saw our players cry. They cried because they knew how badly our players wanted to win. They cried because they cared again. A feeling they didn’t know existed with their baseball team. A feeling adults like me hadn’t felt since 1985. 29 long years ago.
Of course there are more important things than baseball. Of course the sun came up the next day. But for that night, those little kids were crushed. Their newfound heroes had lost the biggest game they ever experienced.
I was quickly reminded of the time when I was 12 when sports broke my heart. I was a huge Michigan basketball fan. Not because of my geographic proximity but because of the Fab Five. I even had the Starter jacket. Legit stuff.
In their version of Game 7, the NCAA National Championship game, with the game on the line, Chris Webber called timeout. A timeout he didn’t have. North Carolina won and I went through my version of heartbreak.
We told our kids that night that it was OK to cry. It was OK for it to hurt.
Our hope is that they get to feel this feeling again next fall. And maybe this time the Royals will walk away with the trophy.
It’s been a quieter week in Kansas City since it all slipped away last Wednesday night. Sports is a funny thing. Only one city celebrated after baseball season this year. 29 cities were full of kids that were heartbroken.
Especially Kansas City.
(Photo Credit: Author)
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