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Dave Helling: Royals’ World Series victory is a moment for all Kansas Citians to share

Columnist Dave Helling writes that the Kansas City Royals’ World Series-clinching victory over the New York Mets is a reminder that our best moments come when we enjoy something magical, beyond ourselves. Our public lives are largely zero-sum games, while being a fan is a common pursuit.
Columnist Dave Helling writes that the Kansas City Royals’ World Series-clinching victory over the New York Mets is a reminder that our best moments come when we enjoy something magical, beyond ourselves. Our public lives are largely zero-sum games, while being a fan is a common pursuit. jsleezer@kcstar.com

I was 30 years old the last time the local nine won the world championship. I was in the middle of a spectacularly mediocre television career, working at WDAF to help put together our coverage.

The Royals’ 1985 World Series win was great fun. This year’s victory seems more special and interesting for a couple of reasons.

For one thing, a championship run seemed almost routine back then. The Royals had been in the playoffs in 1984 and in the World Series in 1980. They had been to the playoffs three times in a row in the late 1970s. At the time, no one suspected it would be three difficult decades before the team would take part in a downtown parade.

Today we know playoff appearances are not routine, which made this year’s trip especially memorable. And there’s this: If it takes 30 years to win the next championship, some of us won’t be here to see it. That helps this year’s trophy shine a bit more brightly.

Last year’s amazing dash to the Series and the 90-feet-too-short outcome play a role too.

But Sunday’s clinching victory seems most intriguing because it’s a reminder, when we really need one, that our best moments come when we share a common space with our families and friends and strangers, enjoying something magical, quite beyond ourselves.

We live in sour times.

In 2015 America, we argue over streetcars and hotels and taxes and spending and, well, anything else you’ve got. Our public lives are now, sadly, zero-sum games. If I’m winning, you must be losing. Your victory is my defeat. If I’m up, you’re down. You say goodbye and I say hello.

It’s deeply interesting to realize sports are the ultimate zero-sum game — for the Royals to win, the Mets had to lose — yet our happy, foot-stomping reaction to the team’s success is universal, not a zero-sum game at all. Anyone can grab a hat or a T-shirt and join the fun. You don’t need a ticket, you just get on board.

OK, some of this is close to cliche. It’s easy for a community to support a winning baseball team because the stakes aren’t very high. The Royals’ success or failure is exhilarating and maddening and exhausting, but it’s not life-changing, not like our real disputes over how we run our cities and states and country. Winning the World Series doesn’t change that equation.

Even last year, after the heartache of the Series loss, our daily lives eventually returned to normal, more or less. There’s a reason that one of the first lessons a child learns is it’s only a game.

Still, this week — for a few days — we stopped yelling at one another and yelled with one another. That’s pretty grand.

It’s due in large measure to a group of athletes we may never meet, from different countries and backgrounds, now scattering across the country to live their lives and enjoy the prize they won.

Thanks for the year, guys, and we’ll see you next spring.

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