Here in San Francisco —
“Way to go.”
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— on the packed, rocking, outdoor patio of Momo’s American Bar & Grill, maybe 50 steps across the street from the Giants’ AT&T Park —
— Giants fans are embracing, snapping cellphone-selfies, shaking hands, smiling big and generously congratulating —
— not each other, but Royals fans.
Yes, you read that right.
It is Wednesday night and the San Francisco Giants have just lost Game 2 of the World Series.
They lost it big, getting walloped 7-2, almost as badly as the Giants thrashed the Royals in Game 1 at Kauffman Stadium, and the fans here are, in a way, actually sorta-kinda-really OK with it.
Not because they didn’t want to win. Oh, they do want to win. It’s because the other team is the Royals.
If there is any conclusion that can be drawn at what is now the terminus point of our Royals Odyssey — a four-day, 2,239-mile drive across half of America to explore the degree to which Kansas City’s boys in blue have truly captured the heart of the nation — it is that everyone, to some degree, has become a Royals fan.
Even Giants fans.
On Friday, when the Royals take the field for games 3, 4 and 5, they may be taking the field as opponents, but based on the home team crowd in this bar, they’re not the enemies.
These Giants fans pretty much like them.
“Kansas City’s young and hungry. They’re a good-guy team,” says Wardy Joubert, 40, a muscled personal trainer and diehard Giants fan who, although born in New Orleans, has been living in San Francisco for years. “They come to play and have fun.”
All night, Joubert kids around with Sean Anthony Brown, 48, a Royals fan and pilot for Air Canada who, having flown into San Francisco, put a Kansas City Chiefs cap on his head, because he didn’t have a Royals cap, and headed down to the bar.
“I’ve been a Kansas City fan for 10 years, at least,” Brown says. “I walked in and everyone said, ‘You can’t come in with that hat!’ They’re all kidding. I’m telling them, ‘Hey! You’re going to be crying by the end of this night.’”
At the end of the night, they instead are snapping pictures and high-fiving. People slap Brown on the back, offer him congratulations.
“You guys deserved that one,” a passing Giants fan says, but swears it will be different on Friday.
Should the Royals actually win the series, win it? Of course the Giants don’t want that.
“I think people will be happy for them,” says Giants fan Mike Arend, 31, who is in finance and who, it so happens, also attended college in Rolla, Mo. As someone who for years has also been a long-suffering Milwaukee Brewers fan, he says he gets the Royals’ appeal. He understands and appreciates the Royals’ narrative as the little team that could.
“I know what it’s like to be the underdog,” he said. “I have a lot of friends who are rooting for the Royals.”
But it’s a good bet that no one else here sees the Royals in the exact same way as does 38-year-old Ronnie Duvall.
A green energy entrepreneur, he is a massive Giants fan. Few in the bar are cheering as loudly or as intensely. He’s got a truck painted in Giants colors. When he watches a game here, he parks the truck out in front of the bar, same spot, right out in front. Parking is hard in San Francisco, and this isn’t even a real parking spot. Cops never ticket him.
In the last innings, with the Giants languishing, a single off a Giant’s broken bat drops like a wounded bird into right field. Duvall claps hard and bellows:
“Yeah, that’s it. Do it! That’s the start of the rally!”
When he looks at the Royals, he sees his late grandfather, Ivan Duvall, a carpenter from Lakin, Kan., way out on the western side of the state. Duvall spent summer days on his grandfather’s farm. The best man he’s ever known, and a huge Royals fan.
“I was proud to see the Royals make it,” Duvall said of the series. “I love the Royals, too.”
Enough that, when asked if he loves them enough to don a Royals cap and cheer the team, he has only one request: That a picture also is taken of him in front of his truck with a Giants hat, too.
“I don’t want people to think I’m a traitor,” he said.
You’re not, Ronnie. The Giants fan puts on the cap.
“Go Royals!” he says.
Think of it as an epic journey, a Royals road trip halfway across the country to seek out the devotion that now belongs to the boys from Kansas City.
We in Kansas City have always loved our Royals. But now, say the sports pundits, so does the rest of the nation. This scrappy, sliding, bunting, running team has captured the heart of America.
But how much do people really love the Royals? How much do they actually know about our boys in blue?
Such are the questions that prompted The Kansas City Star to send two of its own — reporter Eric Adler and videographer Monty Davis — on the road, 2,200 miles to San Francisco, in the most conspicuous of Royals cars.
Follow them at kansascity.com or on Twitter at #royalsodyssey. Feel free to contact the reporters on Twitter through @eadler or @montydaviskc.