The Kansas City Royals have become one of the biggest stories in sports, going from perennial losers to World Series favorites in the blink of an eye. Much of the country has jumped on the Royals bandwagon, and it might be difficult to find a city that's more deserving of a winning MLB team.
Kauffman Stadium is expected to be rocking when the Royals face the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of the 2014 World Series in a matchup of contrasts. While the Bay Area has experienced success with two titles from the Giants since 2010, and the 49ers have a rich tradition of winning in the NFL, Kansas City has been overcome with Royals Fever after a prolonged drought of disappointments from their two professional sports teams.
Once the NFL's Chiefs begin training camp, they are usually the city’s top team until the end of the season, but that hasn’t been the case this October. The Royals’ American League Championship Series clincher registered a rating that is comparable to most Chiefs games, and 70 percent of Kansas City televisions were tuned into the Game 4's final inning. While most NFL cities are the top draw in town, the Royals have cut into football's market with an exciting team that is just four wins away from their first title in 29 years. The Royals are the hottest thing in K.C., and they are all that the city's sports fans want to talk about.
“If we are not talking Royals for whatever reason, people will say ‘What are you doing? The Royals are in the World Series,’” Danny Parkins, host of “The Drive” on KCSP 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City, told International Business Times. “If we are talking Royals we won't get a single text, tweet, call complaint or whatever saying ‘talk about the Chiefs.’ It’s like nobody has noticed that we’re not talking Chiefs right now.”
Evidence of the Royals takeover of the city can also be seen on the streets. In a tidal wave of blue, a growing number of Kansas City sports fans have been decking themselves out in Royals gear to support their baseball team, after ending the longest postseason drought in the Majors.
“It’s like nothing I have ever seen before, just a lot of excitement,” said city councilman and Kansas City native Michael Brooks. “Everybody can feel the electricity in the air. There is a lot of optimism. It’s been a tremendous boost to people’s morale.”
Brooks, who witnessed the hundreds who packed the Power and Light District on Monday for a Royals’ pep rally, believes that the Royals success reflects positively on attracting people to the town, which is “small enough that it doesn’t overwhelm you the way other big cities can, and is certainly a family-friendly town.”
He added that Kansas City had always been more of a Chiefs town, but the Royals resurgence over the past two years may have changed that.
“In this year, for sure,” said Brooks. “The Royals put the city on the map.”
Dick Davis has been among the most patient and loyal Royal fans in town. The 78-year-old city councilman remains part of the Kansas City Royal Lancers, a volunteer ticket-selling group, which had problems selling tickets to Kauffman Stadium when the team was at or near the bottom of the AL Central division. Seats for the Royals have become the hottest commodity in town despite an average ticket price of $1,196.90 for Game 1 on the secondary market, according to TiqIQ.com.
“I’m in seventh heaven,” said Davis, who has been pulling for the Royals for decades. He said that much of the city has not been engrossed in nostalgia from 1985, the last and only time the Royals won the World Series. It was a team that included Hall of Famer George Brett, and World Series MVP Bret Saberhagen. Brett has been in attendance at Kauffman Stadium during the Royals' impressive 8-0 postseason, almost serving as a reminder of the "better times" for Royals fan.
“It will be easy to sell tickets next year, that’s for sure,” said Davis with a laugh.
For years, the lack of success experienced by Kansas City’s professional sports teams has been a sort of irony. The city has some of the most passionate fans in the country, but the teams have failed to win any postseason games in decades.
The losing history of the Royals has been well documented, but the Chiefs have caused Kansas City fans plenty of heartache. The city’s football team hasn’t won a title since the AFL-NFL merger, and they haven’t even won a playoff game since 1993.
Kansas City might not be often thought of as a losing sports town with the likes of Buffalo and Cleveland, but it is desperate for a winner. It was No.8 on the 2014 Forbes list of most miserable sports cities, and the mood of the City is noticeably different when its teams are having trouble.
“This city, they live and die with their teams, because unlike so many other sports towns, there’s not that many teams and there’s not much else to do,” Parkins said. “You don’t go to the beach, you don’t go to the ocean, you don’t go to Broadway. You don’t do those sorts of things. The things that you do in Kansas City are: you follow sports and you eat really, really good food. That’s what you do in Kansas City.”
Indeed, Kansas City has developed a stronger reputation for barbeque than it has for the Chiefs and Royals winning. But the fanbase in Kansas City is so passionate about sports that it’s part of one of the most unique sports towns in the country. Even without an NBA or NHL team in the city, sports remain a focal point of the area for 12 months out of the year because of college basketball and college football.
The Kansas Jayhawks, Missouri Tigers, and Kansas State Wildcats all have an imposing presence in the city. According to Parkins, Kansas City is the only city in the country that ranks in the top 20 in college football ratings and top five in college basketball ratings.
Like any sports town, the popularity of the teams is often dependent on how much they are winning. With the Royals on the verge of bringing a championship to the Kansas City, Parkins says the city is buzzing with anticipation.
“It’s 29 years of pent up frustration that is all building to Tuesday night.”