I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wondered why I didn’t post anything in October, there’s your answer. The following entries detail the experience of watching the postseason far away from my hometown, in a much different place where fans from all over this huge country converge. Immigrants proudly display flags of their home countries in their windows and dwellings; during the postseason signs of national migrants’ provenance appear on heads and hearts in the form of caps and shirts. Giants fans scowl at Dodgers fans as Yankee stadium looms in the distance, and it’s always looming, literally or figuratively. You can see it from the plane as you leave the city for wherever you’re from, and again when you come back. On the 7 train to Jackson Heights for momos you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Philles fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many of us here from Kansas City, but the postseason is never a lonely experience, just a different one.*
*Disclaimer: These posts might contain cliche images of athletes. Writing about sports means I have to deal with levels of kitsch I am not used to accommodating. I’m sorry. Also, I’ll get back to my Craigslist stories after this.
I go to a bar in Carroll Gardens. My friend who was supposed to meet me strained her ankle so I am by myself. Home is off-limits for watching this series. My roommates are Yankees fans and the only way for them to feel okay about losing the Wild Card game to the Astros is if the Astros win everything.
I have a feeling I’ll run into Royals fans at the bar. Last year, everyone in New York City who was not from San Francisco was cheering for the Royals. Their allegiance only had a little to do with the fact that New Yorkers are still mad about the Giants ditching the city for California. They harbor similar contempt for the Dodgers.
The second I enter the bar I spot a schlubby guy in a KC shirt and hat, sitting by himself. He is amazingly short for someone from the Midwest. We become fast friends and suffer through the game together—along with the bartender, who is completely decked out in Royals gear. The bartender rings a cowbell every time the Royals score, which is twice, and every time our pitchers strike someone out, which is 14 times.
The Astros’ Collin McHugh allows only two runs in six innings; Ventura allows two runs in the first inning, setting the tone of the game. The game ends with serious concerns that the Astros are this year’s 2014 Royals, which does not bode well for the 2015 Royals. Except that the Astros already aren’t the 2014 Royals because their 4 – 0 win over the Yankees was as scintillating as a yawn compared to the Wild Card game last year.
On the train home, I take out Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides. I started the book a week ago, after picking it up from a box of books someone left on the sidewalk outside an apartment on Cortelyou Road. A crumpled piece of paper taped to it read Free books. Sometimes, along with free books you also get free bedbugs, but not this time. Before reading the book I opened it and smelled it. Books are like flowers; they are always going to smell like something. I fanned its pages, like I always do before I commit to reading a book. But the rhythm of each page gliding past my thumb was broken—something was left between its pages. I fished out a yellowed ticket to an Astros game against the Nationals. 2005 National League Champions, it boasted.
I didn’t think much of the ticket and used it as a bookmark, but when the Astros won the Wild Card game it started worrying me.
Robin, you are not going to let yourself get worked up over an old ticket, I told myself.
I let the ticket keep its post in Middlesex, and had even forgotten about it. But on the train after Game One I open the book, and it was the first thing I saw. Astros vs. Nationals. 2005 National League Champions. I would be remiss not to take this as a sign.
Something has to be done.
When I get home I run up to my room and find a lighter. I make my way top the backyard with it, and the ticket. I crouch over a planter that had been flooded in recent rains, drowning a small crop of carrots left over from an urban agriculture experiment; all that was left was a mud stew that still had not evaporated. I bring the flame to the stub end—the one that says 2005 National League Champions. The little flame greedily swallows up the whole ticket, which I drop into the planter before the fire can bite my fingers.
It’s not that I have anything against the Astros—I’m glad they were able to improve so much this year, and defeating the Yankees should give them a nugget of pride. And it’s not that I think my single act of torching the ticket will affect the Royals’ chances in this series. But sometimes you hear people say that if enough people prayed or did yoga together, then there would be world peace, right? Even if you’ve never heard anyone say so, you’d at least be able to find a Facebook page that did. A flaming ticket and a baseball game have nothing to do with world peace or the course of humanity, but could it be that if enough people believe that their actions and the outcome of distant events are intertwined, then maybe it will make a difference? It’s not necessarily the actions, but the belief that matters.
But this is not just about baseball, I tell myself. The ticket had to burn because I did not want it to ruin my reading experience. Before nodding off to sleep I read a few pages of Middlesex to erase baseball from my mind. My mind doesn’t want baseball in moderation, though. It is busy working overtime, compensating for those 29 years that the postseason was not even a blip on the radar and I have dreams of being sitting in a stadium filled with people in orange. A batter named Flowers hits a two-run home run. Or strikes out. I don’t know.