This October has been a memorable one, to say the least.
The Royals are the only professional sports team that I’ve been a lifelong fan of. They’ve been mostly irrelevant in the baseball world for my entire life. I was three when they won the World Series in 1985. It’s been 29 years since then. That was the last time they made the playoffs. Since that season, they’ve lost 409 games more than they’ve won. (That’s over 2.5 seasons. Of losses.) Basically, anyone who knows anything about baseball knows that the Royals have not been good. They’ve been unsuccessful. As a team. As an organization.
For as long as I can remember, I just wanted the Royals to make the playoffs. And this year, it happened. The longest playoff drought in major professional sports ended. Success, right? Not quite.
Once the Royals made the playoffs, I just wanted them to win one game. If we could just win the Wild Card game, people wouldn’t say we didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs. Being at the Wild Card game was, by far, the best Royals game I had ever attended. Explaining the roller coaster of emotions during that game could be it’s own blog post.
Once the Royals won the Wild Card game, I just wanted them to win one full series. If we could just win one series, we would be seen as a serious baseball contender again. During that Wild Card game, something clicked and the Royals were clearly a different team. One that swept the Angels, the team with the best record in baseball this year.
Once the Royals swept the Angels, I just wanted them to sweep the Orioles. That’s right, not just win the series, but win another four straight games. Sure enough, they did. Somewhere during this wild run I said that if we, somehow, made the World Series, I would be content.
But sure enough, when it happened and the Royals became the American League Champions, I expected them to win the World Series. Don’t get me wrong; It was a blast celebrating the victory at the end of game four of the ALCS. But honestly, not only did I want the Royals to win it, I wanted it to be done in four games. Ignore the fact that it would be historic, we were only four wins away. Knowing the likelihood of it happening was slim, I would settle for just winning the World Series.
This team couldn’t have gotten any closer without actually winning the World Series. The Royals lost game 7 by one. With a runner standing 90 feet from home, in the bottom of the 9th inning; they were one hit away from tying the game.
After the game, I couldn’t believe it. Despite the fact that a team that hadn’t made the playoffs in 29 years, made it all the way to the last out of game 7 of the World Series against a team that had won the championship two of the last four years, I was crushed. (And yes, I know baseball is just a game and has no eternal value.) It wasn’t until 3pm the next day that I even felt like talking to anyone. I just wanted them to win the World Series. Turns out, I’m competitive.
The Royals had a celebration at Kauffman Stadium the day after the Series. At the time, I wasn’t sure why. I was expecting a parade when we won, but we didn’t. Teams that win the World Series are the ones that get to celebrate. Instead the Royals were still celebrating. Actually, it seemed like all of Kansas City was still celebrating. In my mind, we hadn’t been successful. We weren’t the champions, and we shouldn’t be celebrating.
But during the celebration at Kauffman, Mayor Sly James quoted John Wooden: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” It made sense. The celebration by the people of Kansas City – a city which I love dearly – and the Royals organization was appropriate. The Royals had been successful. They absolutely did their best. Even though they were one run short of winning the World Series, there was a lot to be happy about. The “process” was working, the team was doing what no one thought possible, and the entire city had enjoyed a month of crazy exciting postseason baseball.
I’m redefining my definition of success. Winning may not always be possible. Sometimes giving it your best is good enough. And who knows, maybe the Royals will even win the World Series in 2015.