I love sports. I love sports too much. I love sports so much that a lot of times it ends up changing my emotions, and either making or ruining my day. I chart the movement of time by the beginning and ending of sports seasons. I spent my middle school years exclusively wearing KU clothes. Sports are kind of a big deal in my life.
I've come to the conclusion that I don't think the way I interact with sports is a good thing.
Me saying that is not me admitting that "being a sports fan is wrong" or that I should quit watching sports on tv. It's more of an admission that when I'm self aware about my love of sports, I don't love what I see.
The 2014 Kansas City Royals have taught me a lesson.
I DESERVE TO BE SKEPTICAL
For my entire life up until last month, the Royals had never made the playoffs. They were close in 2003 when I was in middle school, and they failed. They were in contention for a couple weeks last September, and they failed. Outside of those two situations, they haven't been anywhere close. The last 29 years of my life as a casual baseball fan have been defined by the utter failure of my hometown baseball team being the laughing stock of the MLB.
The difficult reality of loving a sports team is that really only one fan base is truly excited about the outcome of that season. Everything else is just wishful thinking. You can try to find some silver lining like "My team really made progress" or "It's a rebuilding year", but the result is that your team just wasn't good enough to win.
When it comes to being a Royals fan, every single person in Kansas City deserves to doubt their ability to win any game. Our city has earned it's skepticism.
THE WILDCARD GAME
When the Royals clinched a playoff spot, I was elated. I was actually going to see my team play playoff baseball. Not just that, but playoff baseball AT THE K. This was the greatest thing ever.
What was my first response? No chance we win this game, but it sure will be fun to play it.
As I settled in to watch the game, my skepticism didn't change at all. Then the Royals gave up all sorts of runs and I completely quit believing. My fiancee and I texted throughout the game. Here was a snippet.
Then the greatest possible thing happened.
My pessimism was proved wrong.
Whether or not the Royals had failed me time and time again, what was the point in refusing to believe they could win? What did I gain? More importantly, what was I actually going to lose if the Royals lost the game?
My perspective on sports is defined by all the losses, because my perspective only looks on the actual outcome of the games and the seasons. I am quick to forget that I am not playing the game. It is not my job to hit a ball well, or run quickly, or hit three pointers, or tackle 250 lb. men. My only responsibility as a fan is to cheer on my team. I want to actually cheer on my team instead of practicing my typical combination of sarcastic remarks, frustrated yelling, and tentative cheering waiting for something awful to happen.
A COMMITMENT TO POSITIVITY
My goal for the rest of this Royals playoff run is as follows:
Break my pessimistic habits and work to believe the best in a team that I care about.
This Royals team has given me 0 reason to doubt their ability to win games. They literally haven't lost yet. Although Billy Butler seems to hit into double plays at every chance, I don't want to assume he's going to do it in a clutch at bat with runners on first and second. Ned Yost has made some awful managerial decisions this season, but when he refuses to pull the starter during a rough 5th inning, I'm going to believe it's going to work out.
By doing this, I think it's going to make watching these games way more fun. If I hop on Twitter and criticize the team or the manager, nothing is going to change. If I text my Dad after a tough loss railing against some specific outcome or event, nothing is going to change.
This season could end in a heartbreaking collapse or an incredible parade.
It isn't my job to decide the outcome though. It's only my job to cheer on my team and enjoy the ride.
Also, it's going to be easy because the Royals are never going to lose again and I'm going to be celebrating the first World Series victory in KC since '85.
Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.