Switching from basketball to baseball, I've decided - in honor of the start of a new baseball season - to officially switch my allegiance back to the Kansas City Royals. At about the age of 5, I inexplicably became a Royals fan. I lived in New Jersey, a short drive from the river that separates civilized America from Manhattan and I was rooting for a team out in a great midwestern expanse I had never set foot in. It wasn't until a mid-July evening in 1984 that I ever spent any non-airport time in the Central time zone. Why was I a Royals fan? It could have been because of the nifty Royal blue of their uniforms. It could have been that my favorite baseball card was of a player named Al Fitzmorris and he had the same initials as me (as well as what I imagined would be my general demeanor when I got to be his age.. I was wrong about that). Like I said, I was only 5. Or maybe I became a Royals fan because I knew they had a lot of good young players and were poised to contend for some pennants in the mid-to-late part of the 1970s.
The Royals did indeed get good as I grew from a boy into an older boy. But they just didn't get good enough. For three straight seasons - 1976, 1977, 1978 - Kansas City lost in the American League Championship Series to the team I hated the most, the New York Yankees. I remember crying when the man who invented the Nutty Buddy gave up a bottom-of-the-ninth home run and the Yankees went to the World Series. In 1980, to make matters worse, I was living near Philadelphia and endured the Royals making it to the World Series and losing to the Phillies. That was painful.
By 1984, I was in Minnesota and it seemed easier to just be a Twins fan. A year later, the Royals won the World Series and I sort of enjoyed their victory but my heart wasn't in it. I associated Royals fan-ness with being a little kid and I wanted to proclaim my adulthood, my maturity, my ability to grow out of choosing a favorite team based on my love for the color blue and grow into choosing the team for logical reasons, like I live in Minnesota, Go Twins.
But I miss it... the innocence of a wide-eyed 11-year-old reading the newspaper each day for reports of the Royals wins (usually) and losses (less often)... wondering why they traded for John Mayberry at the tail end of his career and wondering if that George Brett guy would have staying power... hating the Yankees and their goddamn fake-classy pinstripes. (come to think of it, George Brett was a big reason for me losing interest in the Royals... sure he was a great player but he seemed like kind of a jerk to me; in '85, rooting for a team with him on it didn't seem to jell with listening to early Violent Femmes cassettes, at least not for me.)
I'm not throwing away my allegiance to the Twins. I'm not forgetting about what happened in 1987 or 1991. I'm not giving up on the possibility of liking the Dodgers, the team that plays less than 5 miles away from where I live. I just miss rooting for the Royals and I want to do it again and sure there may be "other" reasons for this switch (reasons having to do less with recapturing lost innocence and more with, well it's Valentine's Day you see and some people are from Kansas City, whether or not they're baseball fans and the team is supposed to be better this year, really they are - they signed Gil Meche! - and they play in that cool ballpark and I might be going to Kansas City for a conference in June and...)
...And I just realized that the worst basketball game is still better than the best baseball game. There'll be time enough for thinking about baseball in the late summer and fall. It's basketball time - the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, the college tournament in a few weeks, the NBA playoffs in April (the Timberwolves have a chance to make the playoffs; it looks like it's them and the Clippers fighting for the opportunity to lose badly to the Mavericks or Suns in the first round.) No matter what happens to my favorite team, there' s still a lot to love in the NBA - the Lakers are good, Agent Zero is inspiring (he went to high school in Van Nuys!), the Knicks are fascinating, the Raptors are better than everyone thinks (always knew Sam Mitchell could coach), and the Suns are the most exciting team in the history of professional sports, and Mark Madsen continues to be the most excruciatingly blessedly positive force in the universe, leading to my list of favorite Mad Dog positive blog affirmations:
-It was a great game to play in and a great game to watch.I'll stop here. I'm happy.
-Dwayne Casey...is a class act in every way and he knows the game of basketball backwards and forwards.
-Lately, our team has been playing very well.
-It's always great to see Sam.