I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wonders 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, but 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 and 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 when you need to eat momos, you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Phillies fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many Royals fans here, but the postseason as an expat 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.
The game goes as expected. We are losing to the Astros and Herr Keuchel. There are close ups of his mother in the stands, in Houston, breathing a sigh of relief every time her son, Dallas, finishes an inning.
I watch the game at a bar in Brooklyn with Katie, a high school friend from Kansas City and her boyfriend, Colin, who is from outside Philly. I’m learning that basically everyone who dates anyone from Kansas City turns into a Royals fan—and not in a lackadaisical just-while-we’re-in-the-same-room kind of way either. These converts are zealots.
Most of our focus is on this game, but there are others to talk about. The Blue Jays, one of the most offensively lethal teams in the American League, is staving off elimination at the hands of the Texas Rangers, and the Mets game last night has further strained relations between New Yorkers and the Dodgers. Colin, a graphic designer, shows us a photoshopped picture he did of Chase Utley as the Joker. Utley became a villain overnight when he crashed into the Mets’ second baseman, Tuben Tejada, breaking his femur. I remember walking by a bar on my way to a Comic Con after party, and seeing that the Mets were up by a point. Since the Royals were not playing I was determined to ignore baseball that day but everyone inside the bar and all passersby outside were staring at a replay of the collision. A collective groan ascended into the night, above fire escapes and rooftops, accompanied by some choice curses. Tejada was replaced by Wilmer Flores, but the damage was done and the Dodgers scored four runs in one inning.
Katie, Colin and I spend most of this game groaning too, oooh-ing , ahhh-ing, aaaarg-ing, and face-palming in unison. But we stand strong, weathering it together. It’s what Royals fans do best. The wood bar supports our elbows and our sorrows. Katie opts to sit on a barstool while Colin and I stamp and shuffle on the floor. We are assembled in this commiserative configuration when a man comes up to us. I had first noticed him outside, smoking and schmoozing with an older gentleman who was carrying a canvas tote bag over his shoulder.
The man has a goatee, a leather jacket, and a neutral grey baseball hat. He is animated in a way that belies not natural enthusiasm, but the consumption of lots of alcohol. He hovers behind me while I watch another Hosmer at-bat. Keuchel has been keeping the Royals down, but maybe Hosmer can conjure some piñata-hacking magic again. But the man forces his way from the periphery of my vision to the center—right in front of my face, actually, and shoves his phone at me.
“Hey. Hey! Look at this. This is the best thing you’ll ever see.”
Keuchel is wasting time, shuffling about the mound, so I spare a glance at the phone.
“Look at this shirt. My friend designed this shirt. It’s the best thing you’ll ever see.”
There was a picture of a pale baby blue shirt with the band KISS dressed in Royals uniforms. It sure is an interesting shirt, and I say as much to the man before turning to the game again, thinking he would move on. But he does not.
“Yeah! It’s awesome. Isn’t it awesome? Just look at it!”
“I saw it, it was great.”
Colin asks to take a look and concurs that this is an exceptional shirt indeed. The man turns to me again. He has now squeezed himself between me and Colin and gesticulating at his phone with the urgency of a traffic controller. His tone is less inquisitive than it is demanding.
“Look at it. Isn’t it awesome?”
“Yeah.” I don’t know what else to say.
“You don’t even care.” The man is hissing like a steam pipe now. He is right, though, I sure do not care.
“I’m just trying to see this at-bat,” I tell him. But this excuse expires quickly when Hosmer strikes out a second later.
“You know they’re going to lose,” the man says tersely.
Finally bored with me and evidently not wanting a male audience, the man ignores Colin and directs his attention to Katie and obliges her look at the shirt. She also concurs that it is awesome. But nothing is going to make this guy happy, especially when he sees her KC hat.
“You’re cheering for the Royals?”
“I hate the Royals.” The man is now flapping his arms wildly and punctuates each word by slicing the air with his hands. Katie treats him as one would a wild animal and hunches in her stool to make herself smaller and non-threatening, and even offers a smile.
“Okay, man, that’s enough,” says Colin, who moves closer to Katie.
I do not understand the man’s rancor. He is not actively watching the game, so I am surprised to see that he is so invested in hating the Royals.
“Are you from Houston?”
“I’m a Cardinals fan, and I hate the Royals.”
I want to say that this explains everything, but that would not be fair to Saint Louis, which does, in fact, harbor some nice denizens. The man commits further violence to the air, impaling it with a lance-like index finger. We are wondering how to neutralize him when his tote-carrying friend, who had been absent until this point, apparates onto the scene and whispers into his ear. He is a skilled drunk-whisperer, and the Cardinals fan’s eyes are suddenly downcast and he silently heads to the door. The drunk-whisperer follows him. On his way out he shakes our hands and wishes us good night and good luck.
We lose 2 – 4.