And here we are, just 27 outs from where the story ends.
The Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants finish their respective playoff journeys tonight the way they began.
One elimination game. One team the victor. One squad forgotten.
The representative cities couldn’t be more disparate.
Take your pick: Would you rather be a part of a civilization at its apex, fully aware the roller coaster is teetering on the verge of oblivion, scratching on the cliff’s edge of relevance while staring down into the void, waiting to be enveloped?
Or would you rather be a part of its rise? The move back to the affordable middle? All those who packed their bags and said goodbye to lawn jockeys and garden sheds now look at the old neighborhood with new hope. They grew tired of taking photos of themselves, rather, decided what they we’re doing just wasn’t that interesting—or at least all that important.
They found instead neighbors were interesting. And school board meetings were interesting. And whether the town should invest in new roads or new sewers first—that’s interesting. Community is interesting.
The Giants themselves are about as lovable as any would-be dynasty can be. They’re not the Core Four Yankees steamrolling in white turtlenecks and blue blazers. They’re not the Epstein Red Sox who took a page out of the Yankee playbook and bought their way into relevance after an 80-plus year drought. They’re not even the puffed-up swagger of the early-’90s A’s or the Bobby Cox scowl simmering beneath the brim of the four horseman Braves.
Nope, they’re a Panda at third and a scooter-riding right fielder who’s so quirky and popular, fans of the opposition fill their yards with signs for him. They’re a countrified southpaw who’s Koufax with a worse haircut and a better delivery. They’re a grizzled manager and the longest-tenured GM in baseball, digging in those jeans pockets fresh out the dryer to see if there’s any of that fairy dust left.
The Royals, like the region they represent, are simply hungry for a winner; but hungry in a low-key way. They lost a generation, maybe two, of their best to the bigger metropoli. New York came calling. So did Chicago and LA. So did San Francisco for that matter. But Kansas City has always been OK. And now they’ve caught up. Caught up and perhaps passed everyone. Hell, they’ve got downtown lofts (for under $300k). Hell, they’ve got an LGBT film fest. Hell, they’ve got Google Fiber.
And no they don’t have a Michelin star yet, but they haven’t lost their touch with barbecue either.
They’ve got a young first baseman who called time in game five to check and see if MVP catcher Buster Posey was OK after a foul shanked off his helmet. They have a big ‘ol DH nicknamed after a gut bomb. And they have a bullpen so sound they were able to disconnect the phone.
For the 80 guys on the field, dugout and clubhouse tonight matters. For the rest of us, it doesn’t. I wake up tomorrow, run, shower, work, come home …and think about the next time I’m going to see a story this grand unfold on TV.
It won’t be for awhile.