The question took me by surprise. In these days of Royals resurrection, isn’t everyone a baseball fan?
But there was a time when I scorned sports. I didn’t see the point in paying grown men millions of dollars to play a game. Couldn’t all that time and money be better spent saving the world?
Still, I grew up with a mother who ironed to the sound of Brewers games on the radio. I knew who Bob Uecker was before Major League.
I saw my share of baseball movies. The Natural, Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out: I learned the Hollywood version of baseball long before I cared about the actual boys of summer.
I married a St. Louis Cardinals fan who felt conflicted when we moved to Kansas City. He couldn’t root for the home team. Not after what they did to his Cardinals in the ‘85 World Series. But he couldn’t stay away from Royals Stadium, either. He loved the game too much. So we saw a few games, and he quietly cheered for the visitors.
In the late ‘90s I became a Joe Posnanski fan. No, he didn’t play second base for the Phillies. He was the sports columnist for the Kansas City Star. I developed a writer-crush on his columns, especially the ones about the Royals. I began to see the underdogs through the eyes of a native. I began to care about the boys in blue, to cheer when they won their first game in the regular season, and wince when they lost their second. And their third. And their ninetieth. Year after year, the Royals tanked. Year after year I felt that surge of hope when spring training rolled around.
Then came last year, when they weren’t half-bad. And this year. Oh, this glorious baseball year!
I’ve come to understand the value of sports, at least in part. This broken old world will overwhelm us if we let it. Sometimes we have to look away or lose our minds. So we follow a sport, a team, a player, and their stories somehow ease our own. In this time of ISIS and Ebola, the Royals make the postseason. During another nasty, depressing election cycle, the boys in blue sweep the Angels, and for a while, we all feel a little more hopeful.
Tonight, when the Royals take on the Orioles, I’ll be watching. Maybe Mike Moustakas will hit another home run, or Lorenzo Cain will catch another impossible fly ball. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even sweep the Orioles and go on to the World Series.
I hope so. Go Royals!