In the past year, I’ve noticed that first-time Kansas City visitors tend to ask me one of two questions: “Why is there construction everywhere?” or “Why does everyone love the Royals so much?” While the first question boggles my mind to this day, the other is something locals tend to take for granted. Often, the attitude that we take towards our “hometown team” is that their rise in popularity has taken place only over the last two years. But I’ve found that even for people who come from places with similar sporting achievements, the Royals experience is overwhelming and inescapable compared to other teams.
One way to look at it is as just another thing for us Kansas Citians to brag about, like our barbeque. To be fair, many students at William Jewell College felt this way when they either first came to Kansas City or started taking interest in sports. Sophomore business administration and communication major Shelby Boze, for instance, originally lived in the Lake of the Ozarks, where hometown loyalties are divided between the Cardinals and the Royals. However, in Kansas City, even before the World Series victory, these divisions were much harder to find.
“Everyone [was] such diehard Royals fans,” said Boze, explaining why she chose the Royals over other teams.
From interviews with other students, the Royals’ title of “hometown team” continued to ring true. Junior communication and business major Lindsey McCoy, for instance, joined the Royals bandwagon since it “felt like home” to her. This perception of the Royals as closely associated, and even intertwined with the Kansas City spirit, has kept many locals rooting for them, even through most of the 2000s when their performance was abysmal.
While success does play a role in the Royals bandwagon, the current lineup also has a distinct personality which appeals to many on campus and around the metropolitan area. All three students I interviewed tended to associate the Royals with perseverance, friendliness and a down-to-earth nature which further promotes their “hometown” feel.
“They’re a bunch of young guys who never stop trying,” said Nick Gavin, sophomore accounting and economics major.
Boze, who cites her favorite player as Eric Hosmer, agrees. The amount of fan interactions the players give, according to her, creates an environment where the team is not just a whole, but a sum of its parts. Therefore, many like her have developed deep connections and even celebrity crushes on the accessible players.
All these factors add up to what “Time” magazine went so far as to call “the future of baseball”: an age of smaller teams of younger players which might have been considered underdogs in the days when high salaries bought the greatest athletes. It might be a bit of a stretch to say that the Royals will become the precedent for more teams to cut back on wages and dial in on friendly teamwork. But if it means increased sincerity in a sport stereotyped to this day as a steroid-ridden, cutthroat game, I’m all for it.