You might remember, from back at the beginning of the NFL season, when we previewed each team by having a writer we liked write about their favorite team.
Well, we're less than a month away from the start of baseball — spring training is here! — so it's time to do the same thing in the baseball world. Every weekday until the start of the season, a different writer will preview his/her team. We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, Where Their Team Stands. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever.
Today: The Kansas City Royals. Your author is Bradford Doolittle.
This is not a preview of a baseball team. This is a cry for help.
Please, don't give me your pity. Better to give me your scorn. That's what I need. Give me a sound box on the head. A boot to the gut. Lord knows, I deserve it.
Yeah, I'm a fan of the Kansas City Royals. I can't help it. I was freaking born into this. If I could change it, I would.
I used to be proud of the Royals and all that. I even loved the powder blues. Now, I'm like a kind of junkie, I suppose, long after the buzz has worn off. And not a pretty junky like Jared Leto in "Requiem for a Dream." More like a methhead from the Missouri backwoods, with sunken eyes and black, rotting teeth.
I should have quit the Royals a long time ago, but that's just not the way sports fandom works in my universe. When the Yankees or the Red Sox are in town and I see all the hollow little people trot in from their SUV bandwagons in the parking lot, wearing their little Yankee caps and Red Sox caps, sputtering their suburbababble, I want to turn into Janeane Garofalo.
That's not to say that there aren't legitimate reasons to abandon the Royals. After all, they are owned by a man who ran Wal-Mart, the most nefarious creation ever unleashed on small-town America. But, no, you won't see me jumping on the Yankees bandwagon any time soon. Nor the Cardinals, the defending World Series champs and the baseball solace that other, less reputable, members of my family have sought. (Family members last seen in a post-championship group-grope of Stan Musial's statue.)
This incessant losing wears on you, it really does. It gnaws at your self esteem. It seeps into your subconscious. I dream about this stuff and that's no joke. I wish it was.
To wit: I keep an old manual typewriter in a spare room of my house, a 70-odd-year-old Underwood that weighs about 300 pounds. I don't use it that often, but sometimes I just like to listen to the clickety-clack and enjoy the feeling of being unplugged. One of the things I use it for is, in the morning, to type out any interesting (or troubling) dreams that I might have experienced during the night.
Here's one of those dreams, copied just as I typed it on the morning of Dec. 21, 2006. Some of it doesn't make much sense and, yes, sometimes I narrate my dreams while they're going on. I'm sure there is a good reason for that...
Who is this creature before me? Shifty-eyed. Nervous. Chain smoking. His white dress shirt stained and rumpled, unbuttoned, revealing a sweat-soaked wife beater underneath. His eyes, with deep moon circles beneath them, flitting about all over the room at once.
"Dayton, when is the last time you slept?" I ask.
"Sleep," Moore says. "Sleep."
"Yes, sleep," I say. "Have you slept?"
Prolonged pregnant pause, as he fingers an empty pack of Camels. Then, as quickly as he can get the words out, he blurts, "Just a little shut-eye, here and there."
The phone in my pocket goes off. Moore springs out of his chair like a lizard and looks around with wide, maniacal eyes.
"Who the f*** is that?" he yells.
"Relax, Dayton," I say, flipping open the phone and showing him the caller ID. "It's just my wife. I'll call her back later."
"It's a pitcher isn't it? Give me that damn phone."
Moore is on me before I can get out of the way. We roll on the floor for a moment but he manages to wrestle the phone out of my grip. I give up. He retreats to the corner of his office, crouching and cooing like Golem from "Lord of the Rings."
"Hel-lo," Moore says in his most solicitous voice. My wife is on the other end yelling, "Who is this? Put Brad on the phone."
Moore looks confused and then holds the phone out in front of his face. "Lefty or righty? Lefty or righty motherf***er!"
Moore leaps to his feet and hurls the phone across the office. It smashes into a dry-erase board and falls lifeless on the floor. Moore grabs the navy sports jacket from the back of his chair.
"Let's go," Moore says. "I've got to see a man about something."
It goes on from there, but you get the idea. Moore led me on a treachorous journey to a strip club, got in an argument with a bouncer and accused the bartender of having had Tommy John surgery.
Of course, this weird dream vision of Royals general manager Dayton Moore is all wrong. The man is immaculate and has probably never smoked a cigarette nor been to a strip club in his life. He unfailingly says all the right things. He loves his family, and Barbara Billingsley brings him lemonade when he gets home from the ballpark. The man radiates competence. That my dream version of Moore would appear so grotesque shows just how twisted I've become.
Now, this is the part where I'm supposed to talk about how having Dayton Moore running the show these days has restored my faith and hope in the Kansas City Royals franchise. In fact, I do have a lot of faith in Dayton Moore. (Insert Gil Meche wisecrack here.) If this were a different franchise, I'm sure Moore could do marvelous things. It's not his fault that I have this inescapable feeling that it'll all go wrong. Four 100-loss seasons in five years will do that. Having Angel Berroa at shortstop doesn't help.
Unlike a fan of, say, the Arizona Cardinals, who have sucked steadily since Lincoln was president, many Royals fans can remember our own version of the Golden Age of Pericles. We won two pennants and a World Series. We were baseball's most successful team from 1976-1985. We had a hero (George Brett) for which to root. Everyone called us the game's model franchise.
That past haunts me now. Nobody dwells on the past like a Royals fan. Marcel Proust was more in the moment than I am. I blame the Royals for my increasingly Luddite tendencies. Besides the manual typewriter, I've acquired a turntable and a renewed affinity for vinyl records. It's like I'm trying be that Christopher Reeve character who by surrounding himself with objects from the past was actually transported into the past. Never happens.
That leaves us with the present. Some fans around here are optimistic about the coming season. Future Yankee Alex Gordon is supposed to be the game's best prospect, and Billy Butler is a top-notch hitting prospect. Moore has purged the roster tainted by the sins of former GM Allard Baird. Things are looking up.
Yeah, maybe. Let's just say I'll believe it when I see it. Like many Royals fans (Rob Neyer, Bill James, Rany Jazeryli), I've turned to sabermetrics. That happened about 10 years ago, when I couldn't fathom why the acquisitions of Jay Bell, Jeff King and Chili Davis didn't propel the Royals into the World Series.
The end result of all the number crunching is that I've acquired a sadistic delight in pointing out why Royals fans are pie-eyed to think things are going to get better any time soon. And, frankly, this year shapes up as another stink fest.
There is a legitimate chance that by the end of the coming season the future, meaning 2008 and beyond, will look all rosy and sunshiney. I really believe that. And, damn it, after everything, I still love the Kansas City Royals.
But right now, it's late and there are six inches of snow on the ground and the room is dark and I'm listening to "I Am the Walrus."
That's reality. The future can't get here soon enough for me.