Jared Lankford: Royals fans go from bridesmaid to bride

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

For 30 years, Royals fans like me have watched as others have celebrated their team's baseball championship performances.

I applauded every time the Cardinals won a World Series, but always had hollowness inside, being forced to settle being the bridesmaid and never getting to be the bride.

All that changed early Monday morning. My team won.

My friends and family suffered for years as we watched losing baseball team after losing baseball team in Kansas City. We watched as our best players were traded away. We witnessed the destruction of a once-proud franchise. We embraced the Cubs-like motto of, "Wait until next year."

Finally, it came full circle and we are now the kings of the Major League mountain.

A phrase that I never thought I would hear graced the speakers affixed to my television early Monday morning, "The Kansas City Royals are your World Series Champions."

I didn't know what to do or say. I just sat in my recliner and soaked in the celebration scene as it unfolded on my screen.

Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, is a day that millions of Kansas City fans will never forget. The day began with the Chiefs rolling to a victory over Detroit in London, and ended with the cardiac Royals winning their second World Series title, in a game that spanned five hours and encompassed two days in the Eastern Time zone.

I was asked one time how a journalist covers games without cheering. For the most part, it is easier than you think. Just like an athlete blocks out distractions to focus on the next play, journalists have to keep their minds centered on the reporting instead of being the cheerleader.

However, there are times when it is difficult not to be a fan -- especially when it involves teams that you've invested your entire life cheering on. For me, the culmination of 34 years of fandom reached nirvana with the Royals' Game 5, 7-2 World Series clinching win over the Mets.

Famed actor Michael Caine summed up my emotions for this postseason perfectly when he said, "Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath."

I did my best, while in public, to control my nervous emotions. I kept the focus on my profession and local teams. In private, at home, I was dressed head-to-toe in Royals blue, hanging on every pitch, grumbling at every call that didn't go our way.

My phone was in one hand, computer on my lap, Facebook and Twitter windows opened, ready to report pertinent stats and see the reaction of my friends who were glued to the game.

With each Royals run scored, my house shook with me jumping up and down. Two voices screamed out with each tally generated by the boys in blue -- mine in celebration, and my wife's telling me to calm down.

My father and I exchanged phone calls at the end of every inning, my friends and I generated so many text messages this postseason that my phone temporally ran out of storage space. I was forced to delete 17,254 texts during Game 5. It took my device nearly 30 minutes to become functional again.

Never have I experienced sports euphoria like the one I enjoyed early Monday morning, as the players were interviewed with their new trophy.

I grew up a Royals, Chiefs, Mizzou, Missouri Southern State and Neosho sports fan -- not exactly a bastion of sports excellence from 1981 until today.

Granted, the Royals won it all in 1985, but I remember very little from that season. Each other one of my teams has had their moments during my life, but all fell short of the ultimate goal. Sunday was the culmination of a lifetime of sports fan enthusiasm.

I am not so blind to forget that this celebration will end, and an offseason with huge roster decisions looms.

But for now, 29 Major League teams have to settle for being the bridesmaids, because my team is married to the crown.

The Kansas City Royals are your 2015 World Series Champions.

Jared Lankford is the sports editor of the Cassville Democrat. He can be reached at sports@cassville-democrat.com, or 417-847-2610.

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