If you wear Royals’ gear these days, there is a decent chance you will have to justify just how long you have been a fan. Outside of the region, you can almost bank on it. In the region, the ‘diehard’ fans – half of whom cannot name more than three players on another team – will be certain they are better fans and have been so longer than you. Such is life when you are a fan of a winner. And yes, that felt really good to type.
Truthfully, there is not a team in the history of professional sports that does not lose popularity when it loses games and very few that don’t gain popularity when they win. That is human nature. The casual fan becomes serious when his team is good and becomes disinterested when it loses. Listen, I have been a Royals fan since I was a kid in the seventies (long enough ago that Cookie Rojas remains my favorite player) and, living in Nebraska, I made fewer treks to Kansas City in the 100 loss seasons than I did the past few years. I still came down, just not as often.
Hey, if you are one of the 14,000 or so who have shown up every night of every baseball season since whenever, good for you. Now, shut up about it. If the family in front of you whose first Royals’ gear in the hats they bought on their way to their seats wonders ‘if Jarrod Dyson is new’, don’t get all offended. They weren’t there four years ago and neither were the two couples down the way on a double date and guess what, the guy next to you who DOES know everything there is to know about Dyson was there by himself instead of having the wife and kids along. Do you like your defending World Champions spending $130 million on payroll this season? Well, you need those folks around you.
You need the guy in Kentucky who stopped wearing his Yankee’s hat and bought a Royals’ shirt (and likely will be wearing a Cubs jacket two years from now). You need the Royals on ESPN, even if the announcers don’t know as much about the team as you do or…GASP!.. might even be a woman. You want the Blue Jays and Orioles and whomever else to no longer admire you, but hate you. You want 2.7 million fans instead of the 1.9 million the Royals drew in 2014 or the even smaller number they drew way back when (although contrary to the opinion on the coasts, there were live bodies in the stands for every single Royals’ game during that time). So what if one million of those folks disappear when the Royals lose 91 games at some point in the future?
There is nothing unique about the popularity of the Kansas City Royals. Toronto drew half a million more in 2015 over 2014. The Yankees drew 300,000 less and Philadelphia drew just 1.8 million for the season. It ebbs and flows, folks, and you are kidding yourself if you think it doesn’t happen everywhere. Hell, I’m in the heart of Husker football and I see Oregon hats. I might smirk a little, but I’d rather watch Oregon play football over Nebraska right now, too!
So, yeah, Opening Night tickets are expensive on the secondary market. Traffic will be awful and many in the crowd will get up to get a beer, a snack, a trinket or bobble and, yes, EVEN disturb you during an inning to go to the bathroom. Get over it, give them a high five when Gordon doubles off the wall in right-center on April 3rd. Enjoy the noise, enjoy the crowd, enjoy the winning. Enjoy the fact that your franchised agreed to the two largest contracts in its history because it just could.
Not everyone has to be a great and knowledgeable baseball fan and not everyone needs to know that you are. You know and I know that a full stadium, even one that gets excited at routine fly balls but does not notice an infield hit, is way better than being three empty seats down from the guy who brought his own peanuts and is certain he can distract the opposing pitcher be saying ‘Going!’ on every pitch…and it is quiet enough that it is actually possible.