I love the Royals.
So did my dad. He was a hometown boy fascinated by the craft and mechanics of the game. He loved its cerebral nature with all of the statistical nuances.
“It’s a thinking man’s game,” he would remind me.
He also loved the sights and sounds and smells of the ballpark, but he had little use for the peripheral pageantry that he considered a distraction from the beauty of the sport. He was unimpressed by mascots and scoreboard graphics and between-inning gimmicks. He was a purist who logged every pitch on a scorecard he would buy on his way through the turnstile.
However, one tradition he relished was the seventh-inning stretch because it involved singing. And he loved to sing, especially “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” But as soon as it was over, he was back to business. “Watch the ball at all times. Keep your head in the game,” he would say.
My dad seemed more impressed by clever players than by exceptional athletes, and delighted in victories that involved superior tactics over brute force. For that he would have loved this Royals team.
Being a tactician himself, my dad carefully plotted out our trips to the ballpark. We’d leave the house with plenty of time to ensure an early arrival and to fit in a stop at the grocery store to pick up a bag of peanuts to share at the game. He was frugal like that.
As soon as we would roll into a parking space, he would start planning an exit strategy. He had a serious aversion to post-game traffic, because he couldn’t sit still very well. For someone with a passion for a slow sport like baseball, he was not a patient man.
If the Royals piled on a comfortable lead or fell helplessly behind, we would head for the exits by the end of the seventh inning or the middle of the eighth. In the event of a close game, he’d take us to the concourse level to watch the last inning where he could whisk us away ahead of the crowd. I’m not sure that I ever saw the final out of any game when I was a kid.
For better or worse, I have inherited my father’s impatient streak and his tactical obsession involving large, crowded events. Like him, I feel a certain rush of satisfaction at the mere thought of out-maneuvering the masses by getting a five-minute jump and finding the quickest way home using shortcuts and backstreets.
But, like him, in my desire to avoid being inconvenienced by a slow-moving moment, I just might miss something cool, like the Royals’ ability to stage a late-inning miracle. Or more important, I might miss sharing a memorable moment with my girls.
If there’s one phrase that I fear my daughters will remember me by, it’s “C’mon! Let’s go! If we leave now we can beat the crowd.”
But the truth is, there is little redemption or glory in beating the crowd. It just cheats my family and me out of enjoying the gift of the present.
So, I’ve asked my girls to point out when I start jingling the car keys and looking around for the nearest exit. I’ve given them permission to remind me to just chill out and enjoy the show.
To reach Jim Cosgrove, send email to email@example.com.
“Let’s Go to Kansas City”
Singer/songwriter Jim Cosgrove recently recorded a new song, “Let’s Go to Kansas City,” paying homage to his hometown, with a nod to the Royals. Fifty percent of the proceeds from downloads go to the American Jazz Museum’s educational outreach programs. Have a listen.