Sunday, August 15, 2010

Yankee "fans" will never be better than us

Big credit to Travis Pflanz of One Royal Way* for giving me the motivation to write this post.

*By the way, if you haven't stopped by One Royal Way, it's phenomenal. He's a good writer and the site is really well designed. Hope to have him help me redesign my blog.

We're used to it. Whether it's the Twins, Cardinals, Red Sox or White Sox, Kauffman Stadium is a hot spot for opposing fans to flock to when their teams are in town. I can't blame them. The tickets are the cheapest in baseball. There's usually no problem getting a hold of some good seats outside of Opening Day. Kansas City is accessible from every major Midwest city within a few hours drive. There are fans of every team everywhere. The Twins, Cards and both Sox are teams that have earned my respect throughout the years.

The Twins are a model franchise for small market teams like the Royals (even though I would hardly consider Minneapolis/St. Paul "small market"). The Cardinals are a franchise with fantastic history and passionate fans. Although they may be cocky and arrogant, they usually have regional ties to St. Louis and have been lifelong fans. The Red Sox have become a "trendy" team in the last decade, but ask most fans at a Royals/Red Sox series and it's likely that they're actually from New England and will tell you exactly where they were when the Sox won it all in 2004. White Sox fans are as loyal as they come. The second team in the Second City. I hate the White Sox players, but have a large amount of respect for anyone who sticks by a franchise like the White Sox, who are continuously spat on by Cubs' fans for being trashy and poor.

Being a fan of most sports teams isn't easy. I'm a prime example. Lifelong Kansas City Royals, Chiefs and Missouri Tigers fan. Ask anyone born after 1985 and they'll tell you why. Hell, ask anyone born after 1970 and they'll show you why. KC is littered with the memories of Lin Elliot, Steve Bono, Tyus Edney, John Elway, Chris Chambliss, 5th downs and kicked footballs for game tying touchdowns.

My sports life hasn't been easy. I know why I stick by my teams though. They wear the banner of my city. Where I was born and raised. They wear the colors of my college where I had my finest moments. I am connected with these teams in a way that most fans are. They've given me my greatest memories and worst nightmares. I cried as Lin Elliot's wounded duck kick sailed left of the goalposts as time expired in 1995. I screamed for someone to just step in front of Tyus Edney in Boise. I feel the passion and love leaving my body with every dropped pop up and terrible free agent signing. But at least I feel something.

These Yankee "fans" don't feel anything. Did they cry as the Yankees won their 26th World Championship? Did they thank God for blessing them with a fantastic franchise that has committed itself to winning during its entire existence? Did they think life itself wasn't going to go on after Luis Gonzalez dashed the hopes of New York City just weeks after 9/11?

No. They point and laugh as if to say: "Look at me! This is the good life! I'm so glad I chose to be a Yankee fan!"

I have all the respect for those who were born in New York City. It's a great city. Maybe the best in the world. My family has ties to New York. My great-great grandfathers came off the boat from Scotland and Ireland to start a new life in America. If you're born in New York, chances are you're a Yankee fan.

However, if you're born in Omaha, Little Rock or Paola, you don't have the luxury of a professional sports team in your city. You get to choose. People who cheer for the Yankees from cities like these probably have family members who grew up in New York or just wanted to take the easy way and cheer for a winner. But there are people from Kansas City, born and raised, who are Yankee fans. I'm sorry, you're a poser. You're not from New York. That youth group trip you took to NYC in 1996 doesn't count either. I know you're a huge Alicia Keys fan and INSIST on blasting "LETS HEAR IT FOR NEW YOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRK" every time you take your '97 Chevy Blazer out to cruise Zona Rosa for chicks, but come on, you're not fooling anybody. It's easy to root for the Yankees because they win. In all likelihood, they've probably never been to New York City, or even the East Coast for that matter. But they see Eminem and LeBron James wearing Yankee hats and think that being a Yankees fan is cool.

Let me tell you something, being a fan of a sports team isn't supposed to be cool. It's supposed to be intense, visceral, passionate, loving, a roller coaster of emotion. Being a Yankee fan isn't like that to these people. It's the easy way out. The effort-free version of being a sports fan. If being a sports fan was a video game, the difficulty would go as such:

Easy- Yankees
Medium- Braves
Hard- Indians
Batshit crazy insane difficult- Royals

I didn't choose to become a Royals fan. I was born into it. But I choose to stick by the team. I choose to be loyal. Am I a better person for it? Probably not. But am I a better sports fan for doing it? Absolutely.

Because when the Royals do raise that trophy, I won't be pointing and laughing, begging for the world to notice how much better than everyone I am. I'll be right next to you. Soaked in beer and tears, hugging complete strangers. Knowing that choosing to stay loyal was the right choice.


  1. Brilliant!

    I've known a lot of Yankee fans. Most really are just lame-ass posers. It's the same for Laker fans or Cowboy fans. These people never bled when their teams failed.

    1985 was a summer of massive vindication. Following 10 years of almosts that were more good than bad it capped a decade of an awesome time to be a Royal fan. I remember my first year of watching baseball seriously was 1975 and the Royals competed with the A's to the wire and lost. In 1976 they got to the ALCS and this 9 year old broke into tears at the Chambliss HR. In 1977 I cried with Fred Patek. Yes, he sat in a dugout and I had on the floor of the house in front of the 25 inch Sylvania color screen, but it felt like we were in it together. In 1980 I felt the sting coming in game 3 having been through it so many times and then Brett saved it. In 1985 I was a veteran of SEVEN PLAYOFF RUNS IN 10 YEARS. I never knew how AMAZING this was... and when we won WE WON. It was KC's time over the top....

    As great as those years were for the Royals I was also a Chiefs fan. Summers and early autumns were joyous and ended in pain, but you always had next summer. It was good that I did have that because late fall and winter were misery. I gained a taste of what it was like to cheer for an absolutely inept franchise. By the late 70s and early 80s I learned that heartbreak was better than soul-crushing losing.... but I stayed with both... then fortunes shifted... The Royals stayed competitive, but the Chiefs became competitive. By 1989 both seemed within some reach. But the Chiefs seemed closer....

    I still cheered for both and now the Chiefs were giving heartbreaking losses. Dave Szott held (1990); Buffalo crushed us (1991); San Diego shut us down (1992); Buffalo crushed us again (1993); Lin FREAKING Elliott (1995); Elvis FREAKING Grbac (1997). But every year you stayed with it. I was now 30 years old and could look objectively, but I still had passion. Objectively I knew the Chiefs in those years weren't as close as the Royals had been in the late 70s, but just one-two plays could put us closer and you always got the feeling that something magical could happen....

    Now the Royals were terrible and crushing us year after year. Since the 14 game winning streak in 1994 there has been no real hope. But still I go; still I cheer. After 2002 the Chiefs began their deepening slide into irrelevance and something worse than medicority. But I still watch and I still hope against all reason....

    And it really IS NOT COOL. It's hard; it's painful. But when you finally do get there - oh it's soooo amazingly good.

    I have a friend who complains about the ESPN-ization of sports. By this he means several things but one of them is that everything in sports has become about celebrity and about following winners... well, real fandom IS NOT ABOUT FOLLOWING WINNERS. It's being a Browns fan in the dog pound in 15 below weather at the end of a 6-10 season. It's about being in Kansas City at a day game in August with the Royals again at 48-70; it's 105 degrees and you're watching the kids play and hoping against reason that one of them will be the next George Brett....

    Some day I hope the kids learn this, but I fear they will not. My boy likes the Yankees. I think he sees my psychosis and wants none of it. I can't blame him as much as I do some... but I have failed.

  2. Thanks for the shout out... I just noticed it!

    And, your, well thought out writing is exactly why our new colaborative Chiefs blog should be a success.

    I rant, I curse and I write as I speek... Many people hate me for it... Many love me for it... I've never seen anyone call you a dumb-ass.

    In my "Poser Yankees fans" post, I got ripped... And it's probably because I did a lot of ripping myself.