Saturday, October 04, 2014

Dear Kansas City

Hi. You don't know me. I don't really know you, either, but I have some ideas about you. I call your state "Misery." There are a number of reasons for that. Ferguson, for one. And Taint Louis. And the Missouri Compromise, which declared people with certain melanin levels only part human. And you went from a swing state to blood red in recent years. I can't forgive you for that.

I don't know too much about the city of Kansas City itself, either. As a kid, I thought it was in Kansas; I think most American adults still think that. More than once when I've made the "Misery" comment I've received blank stares. I don't like Kansas, either. They wrote a book about it called "What's the Matter with Kansas?" It was a New York Times bestseller for many weeks.

What I do know about Kansas City is this: you actually love soccer. You were one of the cities with the greatest support and enthusiasm for the World Cup. I find this strange, given your location. Being surrounded by corn-fed, Bible-thumping, xenophobic rednecks would seemingly make you a weak candidate for being a soccer city. But you are. That's great.

I know that you have a football team whose fans use the racist tomahawk chop and that one of your players killed his girlfriend and then himself, perhaps because of the brain damage he suffered while playing football. I can't name a player on your current team at the moment because I don't watch much football, aside from the occasional Washington game. But I do know you have a good team. Good for you.

I know that Ernest Hemingway got his start at the Kansas City Star. That was back when you didn't need a "journalism degree" to work at a newspaper; you just needed to be a good writer. He was one of the greatest of all time in any country in any language. Because of Hemingway, I know a little about what Kansas City was like in the early part of the twentieth century. He liked it for awhile but then he found it dull. I imagine it still is. Sorry.

I know that U2 once made a disaster of your streets while making the video for "Last Night on Earth." The video was amusing. The song was underrated.

I know that your mayor is Sly James. I know because he follows my @BeiruttoJupiter account on Twitter. Or he did at one point. Maybe he still does. I unfollowed most of the politicians I once followed because, well, politicians.

That's not a lot of information that I know. I find myself lacking a desire to learn more when there are so many cities in the world I have never visited, cities and places I'd much rather go. Barcelona, for example. I've never been to Spain and plan on going in the spring. Moscow. Even though Putin's a dick. Tokyo. Bali. Casablanca. Rio. Machu Picchu. Easter Island. I don't know if we could ever be friends because of your location, but we can try. You see, I've come to like your baseball team.

If you had asked me a month ago, I would have struggled to name your lineup. I did, actually, when I was mentioning the possibility of you winning the AL Central to someone who thought I was joking when I said you were leading the division. Salvador Perez was the easy one. Then it got harder. Eric Hosmer came to mind after a moment. Billy Butler. Alex Gordon. Lorenzo Cain.

I didn't know who Dyson was, or Moustakas, or Gore. I know, of course, the well-traveled guys like Infante, Nix, Ibanez, and Willingham, but I didn't realize they were on your team. I couldn't name a pitcher who took the mound for you. I forgot you won the bidding war for James Shields.

I'm a National League fan, for the most part, though I love the Orioles and watch them when I can. As someone who watches two National League teams nearly every night during the season, I can name nearly the full rosters of most NL teams. But you only play the Orioles twice a year, so I don't get to see your team play. That's why I didn't know or care about the 2014 Kansas City Royals.

But there is that 29 years. Now, I like the Tigers, and I'm happy they won the division (but since they're playing the O's, I'm not rooting for them now.) But 29 years. Twenty-nine years ago I was learning multiplication tables for Ms. Ryan's third grade class and wondering why Jessica Palmer had such a difficult time getting past her fours. Twenty-nine years ago Pete Rose was still playing baseball. He's 70 now. Twenty-nine years ago the Soviet Union was undergoing glasnost and perestroika while waging a devastating war against Afghanistan while the US was secretly funding Bin Laden. The Rockies, Marlins, Dbacks, and Rays didn't exist, while the Nationals were Les Expos in Montreal and the Angels represented the entire state of California, apparently. My favorite baseball player of all time, Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, hadn't even played a Major League Baseball game.

I understand 29 years, because the Reds also had a long drought. From 1996-2009, Cincinnati was not a city that hosted baseball in October. Fourteen years without playoff baseball is nearly half of your wait time, but it's still a long time, and we've approached the quarter century mark in terms of World Series victories. A generation of Royals fans has never known October baseball. And so I'm happy for you.

Then there's the team itself. How can you not like them? There's such a thing as "wanting it." You can see the fire in them. They're too young to know bitter disappointment. You can look into their eyes and see the intensity. I like their speed, too, and the single digit numbers on their uniforms. They are fun.

I am enjoying watching the Kansas City Royals baseball team. I am enjoying them immensely. (It doesn't hurt that Pujols and Hamilton, two of baseball's greater demons, play for the ironically named Angels.) No, I'm not jumping on the bandwagon, but I'm rooting for you in this first round until you play the Orioles. Because man, has this been some fun baseball. So permit me to say thanks for your hospitality.

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