I had never been more prepared for anything in my life. As the Royals’ World Series parade began in 2015, I was exactly where I wanted to be. I had studied the parade route and chosen my spot a year prior, after all, before the devastating Game 7 of the 2014 World Series dashed my plans – or put them on hold, as it turned out. I was in that spot just before 8 a.m. with snacks, drinks, beads, pom-poms, tutus, face paint, balls and coloring books in tow (and that was just for the kids!). I was ready because it was the moment I had literally been waiting a lifetime to experience. I soaked it all in, realizing that it couldn’t get any better than that: perfect plans, perfect weather, surrounded by family and friends, watching MY team celebrate their championship that had for most of my life seemed unattainable.
But, nothing #crowned can stay (as Robert Frost, if he were a modern day Royals fan, definitely would have said). After a disappointing, injury-riddled season last year, a tragic blow this off-season, and of course the fact that many of our most beloved players are reaching the end of their contracts, it’s time to think about moving on. Dayton Moore has given us every indication that he intends to compete this year, whether it’s in our best long-term interest or not. He’s made all the moves he could to improve the 2017 team and has expanded the payroll that the Royals had previously expressed the need to cut. So sure, let’s give it one last go. Our expectations for 2017 should be high, and we should enjoy the ride. In fact, we should relish this season even more knowing that, inevitably, this magical Royals era is coming to an end.
It seems appropriate, then, that the Royals’ slogan for the 2017 season is “Raised Royal.” It’s abstract, but as I understand, it’s about nostalgia and loyalty and passing on our fandom through generations — all good things to hold on to as the changes come. The Royals’ website has provided a meme generator with lines such as “My phone passcode is 1738” for a younger generation and “I smile at the thought of pine tar” for an older generation. To me, being raised Royal means something different. I was raised Royal by maintaining an irrational, hopeless optimism through decades of disappointment. I have warm, nostalgic feelings about some of the worst Royals teams in history.
The benefit of being raised Royal in this way is that I know how this works. The Royals are on the brink of a rebuild. It’s unavoidable. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar will all be eligible for free agency next year and we can’t keep them all, nor should we. We likely won’t keep any of them. And the Royals’ farm system is… not good (although the trades that emptied our system led to a championship, so WORTH IT!). No matter how this season pans out, the focus is about to shift to the future rather than the present. I understand that having faith in our team, despite the odds, is something that recent history has taught us is reasonable. But I haven’t forgotten the lesson from only slightly less recent history — that building a championship team takes a lot of patience, trust in our front office, and time.
Our kids are about to be introduced to the harder side of fandom. It’s time for us to raise them Royal and teach them about humility, loyalty, and finding a silver lining. We need to convince them not to change their passcode from 1738 because it’s a reminder of where we’ve been and where we want to return (unless they want to change it because that song is horrible, which is valid). We need to talk them out of burning their Hosmer jerseys when he is traded or accepts $100,000,000 from another team, because it will always be a memento of that World Series team of which he was a core member (and also because he can’t hit for power and isn’t worth the price, tbh). Keep it around. Just buy your kid a Duffy jersey to go along with it.
Most importantly, we should teach our kids that enduring the struggles makes the triumphs that much sweeter. (FACT: If you don’t own a Tony Peña, Jr. giveaway bobblehead, you did not enjoy the World Series as much as I did.) I proudly held my spot against the guard rails at the World Series parade and reveled in the moment because I had earned it! It was an experience that couldn’t have possibly felt as significant had it not been for the years of dismal Royals teams and failed rebuilds. Our kids’ generation probably won’t have to go through a 30-year playoff drought, but they’ll also never be able to experience the euphoria that only comes after a lifetime of disappointment. I almost pity them for it.