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–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. Meanwhile, in stretches of Brooklyn and Queens, and especially 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 Royals fans here, 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.
It’s past 3:30. The game has started and I’m in my office. I won’t be able to leave work until an hour and a half after the game starts. I have stuff to do, so I make it a point not to look at the box score online for at least an hour. Nothing usually happens in the first innings anyway, I tell myself. In retrospect–when it’s the Royals we’re talking about–I am totally right, but an hour after the game starts curiosity overrides pragmatism and I go to MLB.com.
As soon as I do my forehead meets my desk—not gently. It’s the second inning and the Astros have already scored three runs.
Come on guys, don’t be the 2014 Angels….
If we lose this game we’re losing the series. Anyone who knows anything about these two teams knows we’re fucked—my roommates know better than anyone else. Dallas Keuchel, the Astros’ pitcher for game three, pitched the Wild Card game against the Yankees. Keuchel didn’t concede even the smallest ray of hope to the Yankees and my suffering roommates watched him turn the Bronx bombers in the Bronx bumblers. Yankees fans are poor sufferers and my roommates seem to think that cheering against the Royals will make them feel better about losing the Wild Card game.
“The Astros are totally gonna win—in three games,” said one after the first game.
“You think so?” I asked, for I did not think it would be so.
“Well, maybe in four games.”
It’s all I could say without ruining everything. An insane optimism overtook me during the regular season—the kind that lends itself to believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the notion that you always get to be what you want when you grow up—and I am certain we will win the World Series despite last night’s game. But if I say it out loud, I’ll jinx it.
Right now though, as I slouch at my desk, I think my roommate might be right. Every ten minutes I look at the score.
Johnny Cueto has a hard time settling down and the Astros tack on another run in the third inning—a home run by Colby Rasmus. But it’s only one run! This is good for the version of Johnny Cueto that is pitching right now, and he does not concede another hit during the inning. Does this mean Cueto has found his stride?
To make things equitable, we gain a run in the inning too, and the score is 4 – 2. Are we also gaining momentum? I tell myself it doesn’t matter. Syrian children are washing up on Greece’s beaches, glaciers are melting and there is an island of trash the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean. This is just a baseball game. If we lose this series I will feel bad for the team, but I could focus on my other fall activities—the only ones I ever knew before last year: pressing leaves, sampling different squashes and root vegetables from the farmers market, concocting a Halloween costume.
Sometimes, when I need to put my mind at ease, I go on a run. When I can’t do that, I listen to Radiohead’s Everything in its Right Place. Before leaving work I plug in my headphones, find the song on Youtube, and sit at my desk with my eyes closed and my index fingers tracing circles in my temples. I wonder if anyone on the Royals listens to Radiohead. That would be interesting.
I will watch the game, and I will be fine with the outcome, I tell myself. I am a liar, but at least I am calm as I head to the subway and ride it to my friend’s place in the Upper West Side, where I’ll watch the rest of the game.
There is nowhere to sit on the train, so Middlesex does not make an appearance. I try to see where other riders’ loyalties lie. There is not anyone from Houston on this train, it seems. But I do spot a college student in a Cubs hat, a few people with Mets hats, and of course many with Yankees hats.
I get out of the subway and cross Broadway, heading towards Amsterdam. There are many sports bars on the way and I am careful to avoid looking at the glaring screens that are visible from outside. It is hard—if something good happens I’d want to see it the moment it happens. If something bad happens, though, I’d rather see the replay in the comfort of my friend’s apartment.
But try as I might, it is impossible to avoid a baseball game in the streets if New York City. At the last bar before my friend’s block there is a television sidled all the way up to the window, facing passerby. I see Hosmer at the plate, and see that it’s the bottom of the sixth, and I also see we have someone on second base.
I quickly avert my eyes and run to my friend’s building. He buzzes me in and I share an elevator with two men in Mets hats. They are smiling in anticipation of the game against the Dodgers later that night. I wonder if they notice my Royals shirt beneath my partially buttoned jacket.
The elevator seems to move only millimeters at a time. I am bouncing with anticipation as it reaches the eighth floor and burst into my friend’s apartment.
“Hey!” He looks excited. I try to read his face to see if the excitement belies any status update about the game, but his excitement is essentially meaningless in that regard because he is always excited when watching baseball. Also, as a native of this city, he has no official loyalty to the Royals.
“Did you see?”
“See what?” I take off my shoes and jacket and trot over to the television.
“The Royals just scored a run!”
I had gotten there just in time to see the replay of Hosmer’s single. The main focus of the replay isn’t that he got a single—but how he looked when he got it. Before I see him hit the ball, I think there has been a mistake; this is not going to be a single! They are showing a strike! Hosmer’s knees are bent and his posterior is so far away from home plate it looks like he is preparing to do an Olympic dive, and he is swinging the bat like a child attacking a pinata. But he makes contact, and the ball softly wafts over the infield. Lorenzo Cain sprints home.
The hit is even more impressive when the numberheads run stats on it. The pitch was nine inches off the plate; during the regular season only 20 pitches that far from the strike zone have yielded hits.
The Royals get one more run to tie the game and eventually we win it, 5 – 4. I leave my friend’s place and cross Broadway to get to the subway. A drunk Giants fan tells me I’m ballsy to be wearing a Royals shirt.
“I hate your team,” she adds–a final, slurry salvo.
It’s not that I’m ballsy to wear a Royals shirt here. It’s just that she doesn’t want to see it. The Royals and the Astros are playing each other in the ALDS, and the Yankees and Giants, who are among the oldest and highest spending franchises in MLB, are out of the postseason. How the mighty have fallen.
I am in good spirits. The girl’s spite means that the Royals mean something outside Kansas City. Also, the Astros are officially not the 2014 Royals. The Giants girl stands on the other side of the platform, and I take out Middlesex. A friend’s business card is my new bookmark. I read all the way back to Brooklyn. Everything in its right place.