Wednesday, October 1, 2014

royals! a's! where brooks happens ...

Your theme?  (Almost) closes the post.

And yeah, it’s © Stevo Productions, 2014, No Rights Reserved.  Please, reprint without the expressed, written consent of Major League Baseball, considering it involves, uuh, a Major League Baseball Game.

But don’t reprint without the expressed, written consent of … well, the artist whose song I sorta, kinda rewrote for this.  Unless if, as I would guess, he’d be as cool with “the theme”, as I am. 

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What do you do, when the hype matches the moment?

What do you do, when the ridiculous hype that was Tuesday, September 30th, 2014, at Kauffman Stadium, what do you do, when the ridiculous hype undersells the moment?

I'd been noting all day Monday, as the Chiefs did what Chiefs do and flogged the Patriots like they were Reverend Sharpton's government mule he's always complaining about, that "tomorrow trumps tonight".  The Three T's.  "Tomorrow Trumps Tonight".

I walked into that stadium a little before six o'clock last night, and I can honestly say, that rarely have I entered a sporting event as geeked and fired up and full of anticipation, as I was.  Maybe denver on Thanksgiving Night in 2006.  Maybe the 2005 Indy 500.  Maybe that June Sunday in 2004, when Tom Glavine and Zack Greinke traded pitch for pitch.  Potentially the Elite Eight in 2004, when the worst squad Bill Self will ever coach at Kansas fell in overtime to Georgia Tech, one step shy of a third straight Final Four.

Possibly Fathers Day in 2003, Barry Bonds' last appearance in this fine town that permanently dented the old Right Field GA concession stand roof.  Definitely denver in 2003, the matchup of two 4-0 teams that somehow did live up to the hype.  Possibly the 2002 NCAA second rounder, when a banged-up, depleted Jayhawks squad coming off a decade of frustration, enter the whatever-the-hell-they-call-it Dome in St. Louis, and blew Stanford out of the building so thoroughly, they were calling timeouts down 15-0 not even three minutes into the contest.  And countless other contests, going back decades of my life. 

I've entered with anticipation.  I've entered buying the hype.

Last night?  The hype, the anticipation, didn't live up to the moment.

The moment dominated them.

Royals 9, A's 8, in a crazy, insane twelve inning thriller that gave this city, this town, this fanbase, this community, and this blogger, something our local teams rarely do.

It gave us a reason to cry ... because of something good happening.

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I choose to open with this.

If you've ever seen the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" -- and if you haven't, you should -- you know that there is a character in that film named Brooks.

He's the old dude.  He's the institutionalized dude.  He's the dude who couldn't handle life outside of prison, and winds up (sadly) taking his own life.  That, thankfully, is not why I choose to open with mentioning Brooks.  Nobody named Brooks died last night that I know of.

Before Brooks took his life in "Shawshank", he took out a knife, and carved into the ceiling support three words.

"Brooks was here."

Three words, to immortalize forever that he existed, that he lived.

I sat in 413, row LL, seat 12 last night -- although seated is a pretty lousy word to describe it; there wasn't much sitting going on.  Next to me on my right was a guy named Chris.  Next to him was his brother, and Brooks, an adorable four year old who is the biggest Salvador Perez fan you'll ever meet, and who was as wide-eyed and wide-awake and as into that game at 11:53pm as he was at 5:53pm.  Every major moment last night, the kid and I high-fived. 

So let me tell you, when Salvador Perez lined a single down the left field line, with two outs, in the bottom of the 12th inning, to deliver the Royals truly and totally into the postseason for the first time in more than a generation, that Brooks -- standing on his chair to see what was happening, as he had all night -- simply leapt up into his daddy's arms, and began high-fiving everyone around him. 

Then his dad (whose name escapes me, unfortunately) said seven words that made that night for me.

"You were here, buddy!  You saw this!"

Brooks was here.

So was I.

And I gotta say, 11:53pm on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014, is a moment I will never forget, for the rest of my life.

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My hands are hurting.  I mean hurting.  It literally hurts to type.  My ears are still ringing.  I have yet to go to sleep.  My throat hurts from all the screaming of the last two days, especially yesterday.  I literally have on five band-aids right now from chewing the nails and the skin of my fingers last night.  Even my stomach is hurting, and folks?  As Gregg can confirm, I didn't touch a drop of alcohol during that game, and only had a couple beers while we were tailgating. 

I wanted to enjoy this game stone sober.

And that was probably a good idea, because in the bottom of the tenth, when Gregg leaned in and shouted "how are you feeling?" -- because you had to shout, it was so loud in there -- the only truthful response I could offer was "I need to puke".  The stress was incredible those last five innings.  For five straight innings, the Royals had the tying or winning run at third base with one out.  They didn't get him home in the 8th.  They did in the ninth.  They didn't in the tenth.  They didn't in the eleventh.

And then they did -- twice -- in the 12th.

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I got there a little after four.  Met up with Gregg, his dad, and our buddy Tim, who I hadn't seen in ages.  Met up with a friend from high school, Josh, I hadn't seen in fifteen years.  He flew in from Tampa for this game.  My brother and Neeck came strolling in a little after five.  I heard from other friends of mine who were there -- "The Crush", Damien, Jasson and Tara.  I hope every person reading this, got to stand in that stadium at some point last night. 

And trust me -- giving one massive man-hug to my brother, in that moment, knowing what was to come, damned near made me cry.  (Fine, it did make me cry, hence my "I need to go pee even though I've drank nothing" moment.)

Because that was nearly five hours of incredible, unbelievable, unreal, and quite frankly, nearly unrecappable drama.  The Royals, in the biggest game they've played since Sunday, October 27, 1985, flipped the script.  For six months, we've watched The Formula play out, and it has played out spectacularly well.  The Formula is simple: get six solid innings out of your starter, scratch out a couple runs in those six innings, and then turn it over to Kelvim Herrera in the seventh, Wade Davis in the eighth, and Greg Holland in the ninth. 

Last night?  James Shields was rocked in the first, and shaky through the top of the sixth.  Yordano Ventura was awful, and Kelvim Herrera was worse.  Greg Holland nearly induced 40,526 myocardial infarctions by loading the bases in the top of the ninth.  Even the normally reliable Jason Fraser allowed a runner on first with one out, to score in the top of the 12th.  The offense had to overcome not one, not two, but three deficits.  They had to score eight to stay alive, nine to win, or else the greatest season of my rememberable lifetime was going to crap out on the first roll of the dice. 

Do you know the last time the Royals scored nine runs in a game?

I didn't, so I cheated and looked it up.  August 17th.  Do you know how many times this season the Royals have scored nine (or more) runs?  I didn't, so I cheated and looked it up.  Nine.  Only nine times had they done, what was demanded of them last night.  And only two of those nine, occurred after the All Star Break, and none of them had occurred in six weeks.

That ain't what speed do.  That ain't what pitching do.  That ain't what hitting do.

That, last night?

That's what Royals do.

And for the first time in my conscious memory?

That's a good thing.

It's a damned good thing!

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Consider what a momentous ninety six hours it's been in our metropolitan area's sports community.  KU has finally pulled the plug on the Charlie Weis error.  Mizzou stuns South Carolina, to save their season.  (And sorry, Pete Stoyanovich -- it did need to be saved.)  The Chiefs boatraced -- absolutely depantsed -- Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots with the entire nation watching.  (God, I still owe you that recap!  Dios con mio!)    I'm sure K-State did something note-worthy too.

But damn.  Last night is a day we'll tell our grandkids about someday, and immediately start crying when trying to convey what that laced grounder to left to close things down means.  Not meant -- means.  I have been known to get emotional from time to time at sporting events.  I've never cried like I did last night.  As the texts started rolling in a little after midnight from friends and family that had stayed up, had kept the faith, had seen this thing through to the starting line, that was my only response I could offer.  I've never cried like I did last night.

And I wasn't the only one.  I made Gregg drop me off at the liquor selling establishment across the street, because I wanted champagne.  Vodka, beer, whiskey, wasn't enough.  This deserved some Barefoot bubbly that 13* could get his coozie on with.  After buying a couple of bottles of champagne, I started crossing the street to head home, and wouldn't you know it, the skies of south Kansas City opened up.  It didn't pour for long, but yeah. 

Last night was so epic?

Even God had to cry.

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(*: I apologize, Royals fans.  I didn't haul 13 out to start the game last night; I wasn't drinking anything.  Then Chris next to me bought an Aquafina for me; I hauled 13 out of my pocket and put him on.  Go figure, 13 appeared?  Top of the sixth.  Let's just say, if this game doesn't turn out as it did?  13's in the trash can this morning, and he's reeking of stale urine and obscene beer pouring.)

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Nothing -- not Pete "For President" in 1997, not Tamarick Vanover in overtime in 1995, not Joe to Barnett in the 1993 playoffs, not Dante Hall against denver in 2003, not The Stand against the Chargers in 2010 or The Phumble against them in 2011, not Super Mario's three to force overtime in 2008.  Nothing has ever made me cry for joy, like Salvador Perez' hit last night.  Nothing.

Because nobody thought it would ever happen.  Be honest -- there isn't a Royals fan alive who ever truly imagined they'd ever again play a home game in October.  And for the better part of five hours, it looked like that reality would remain a reality.  When in your life have you seen our team do this?  When in your life have you seen our team seize victory from the lockjaws of defeat, like the Royals did last night? 

Last night is the first time I can remember in my life, where the only baseball team I give a sh*t about, wasn't sh*t. 

I guess that's as good as any, for the 2015 Slogan.  "Royals Baseball: We're Not Sh*tty Anymore!"  We could hire the groundskeepers from "Major League" and everything, to make it truly memorable!

Or, in the words of the great Jay Taylor?

We could use "there's only one thing left to do.  Win the whole godd*mned thing!"

Not even the most religious Royals among us, would have a problem dropping that phrase, over the next four weeks.

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I'll leave the analysis and the second-guessing and the criticism (most of it deserved) of Ned's managing last night to the trained professionals.  

Because frankly?  I don't care.

I don't care that inserting Yordano Ventura, pitching on one day's rest, and leaving three competent, quality relievers on the shelf with the game and the season potentially on the line, blew up as predictably as it did.  I don't care how many sacrifice bunts were laid down.  I don't care how utterly ridiculous it is to have Billy Butler attempt to steal a base.  I don't care if the lineup made no sense.  I don't care one bit about all those things.

Because folks?  Ned Yost gave us something last night, we haven't had in thirty years.  Ditto Mr.'s Ventura and Butler.  And especially Mr's Hosmer and Perez.  Last night, they gave us something, most of us have never felt before.

They gave us validation.  They gave us actual bona-fide confirmation that this can work.  For the first time in thirty blanking years, our love for these guys, for this team, had a payoff.  If you cried for even a moment last night?  If you laughed, and screamed, and cried some more?  If you high-fived a four year old non-stop, and broke down at the simple phrase "you were here buddy!  You saw this!"?  If you felt pride, if you felt happiness, if you felt joy, if you just typed a bit ago that even God cried last night, and did not mean that for a moment of time as a joke or sarcasm?

Then criticize isn't what you should want to do today. 

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There are moments in a lifetime, that are so amazing, so incredible, so un-freaking-believable, that you don't just recall the moment.

You memorize it.

I have a few of those moments.  Moments so personal, so important to me, that matter so much I'll never forget even a moment of them, that I know down to the minute when they happened.  12:13am on Tuesday, September 14, 2010.  9:17pm on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  11:46pm Monday, October 9, 1995.  11:22pm Monday, October 17, 1994.  Every damned minute of Monday, October 6, 1991.

One of them was "The Call" from Vineet.  Every other one, is related to a Chiefs game.

Never before in my life, had the Royals done anything I could remember every detail to.

11:53pm Tuesday, September 30th, 2014.  I'll never forget collapsing into my seat, and sobbing.  I'll never forget high-fiving Brooks.  I'll never forget the group man-hug with Tim, Gordon, Gregg and myself.  I'll never forget the look in Gordon's eyes hugging Gregg. 

I'll never forget 40,000 plus, in a stadium with 38,000 seats, cheering so loudly it could be heard in Waldo.  I live close enough to Waldo to know that it is not within ten miles of the Sports Complex.  And yet, there it was last night, texts and Tweets and Facebook postings that the roar was heard in Waldo.

I’ll never forget the site of all the Blue, all the White, at twenty-nine years of horror wiped out on one play, one incredible play that saw Josh Donaldson miss stopping it from occurring by about 1/16th of an inch.

And I’ll never forget what might replace The Walk In before the Chargers game in 2000, as my favorite one.  Two friends who believed enough in this team, they bought full season tickets for the 2004 season.  That season destroyed baseball for me, I thought for life.

Last night?  All’s forgiven Royals.  All’s forgiven:


(image credit: one of us, either me or Gregg, via my iPhone.  And oh yeah, it's #playoffbeard time.)

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So ... it's time to finally reveal the theme for this post.

Where were you when the world stopped turning, on that September day?

I know where I was.

I know where Brooks was.

“You were here, buddy!  You saw this!”

It’s been nearly twenty four hours … and I still don’t believe it.  I still don’t believe Eric Hosmer, with the season we’ve waited a lifetime for down to four strikes, absolutely jack the hell out of the fifth pitch he saw … and have it drop between two colliding outfielders at the wall, both of whom admitted afterwards, they couldn’t hear each other calling “I Got It”.  I still don’t believe Christian Colon just making contact, the ball dribbling forty some odd feet down the third base line, as Eric Hosmer sprinted like his last name was Dyson or Gore, and crossed home plate to tie it.

I still don’t believe Christian Colon, knowing he needed to make something happen, channel his 2003 Carlos Beltran, and steal second.

And I still don’t believe 11:53pm CT, on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 happened.

I was there.  I saw it.

I still don’t believe it.  I’ve rewatched it at least 50 times, once I negotiated a deal with our network firewall dude at work, to “unblock” mlb.com for me.

I didn’t see this last night.  I dropped to my seat the moment Sal Perez’ hit went under Josh Donaldson’s glove, and bawled.

I apologize for not a single tear shed, or single emotion felt.

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“But I know Jesus, and I talk to God,
And I remember when I was young.
Faith, hope and love?
Are some great things He gave us.
But the greatest?

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The greatest is love.

Because that’s what I felt last night – unquestioned love.  I’ve had faith.  I’ve had hope.  For ten years?  I haven’t had love.

I’m just a sh*tty blogger who can’t write to save his ass.  I am a real political man.  I don’t watch CNN, but I can tell you the difference, between Iraq and Iran.

I believe in faith.  I believe in hope.

But I have now truly seen love.

Love?  Is my buddy Hoagland flying in from Florida, for one game.  It’s my favorite Royals writer, the awesome Rany Jazayerli, writing this.  It’s Chris Kamler, the awesome Fake Ned, calling Ned “crazy as a fox!”, and being as sober as I was at that game.

Love?  Is absorbing every moment on the walk down the spiral ramp last night.  I hadn’t stepped foot in that stadium since May of 2012, until last night – that’s how little this team mattered to me, how totally destroyed the relationship was, between me and the Royals, due to 2004.  It took me twice as long as everyone else with me to walk out.  I could not stop stopping, to just absorb, to just feel, to just emote.

I’ve never cried like I did last night.  I’ve been up for 34 straight hours at this point.  I cannot afford to go Sunday or Monday without an “installment plan”.  When money’s tight, and times are hard?

Sometimes all you get, is a fucking Christmas card.  (Note: I am not editing that quote, in any way, shape, or form, for a reason.  It’s the reason why I believe the way this has played out?  Is anything but coincidence ... but other than providing the date and video clip hints in the next section, I'm not revealing it.  My closest friends, will get the date significance Sunday is, and that's all that matters.)

But then again, I honestly couldn’t afford last night, and was there.

I have a feeling, that once again, Stevo’s gonna ask Mr. Reason for an “installment plan”.  And if I know Mr. Reason at all?  We’ll be standing there come 6:10ish on Sunday night, crying once again.  And God willing, we’ll be really bawling four hours and fifty three minutes later, with another patented “holy f*cking sh*t!” finish that defies any aspect of reason, common sense, or logic.

Because NOTHING about this season makes sense. 

NOTHING! 

The Royals lose that game last night 99 times out of 100.

They won last night.  They defied the odds.

You can call it coincidence.

Me?  I know better.

I have my reason.

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I never want to play a game at Arrowhead on October 5th.

If you think the fact the first “real” home playoff game for the Royals in twenty nine years, will occur at Kauffman Stadium on October 5th?  If you think it’s coincidence that the Royals clinched the AL West exactly thirty years ago on October 5th, enabling everything after that to happen?  If you think it's coincidence it started raining as we exited the stadium, if you think it's coincidence it's been raining off and on all day here in the greater Kansas City Metropolitan area?


Oh – and I really want to see my buddy Brooks, one more time.  I want to high five that kid.  I want him to never, ever forget this season.  I was eight in 1985; I don’t remember it.  I only remember the last twenty nine years.

Until last night.

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This post's theme?

Glad you asked ...

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“Where were you
When the world stopped turning?
On that September day?

Were you at the K,
With your wife and your children?
Living and dying,
Every play?

Did you stand there in shock,
At the sight of the scoreboard,
As fireworks lit up the sky?

Did you hug all your neighbors?
And hug random strangers?
Or did you just sit down and cry?

Did you hold high your children?
And remember the ones gone,
Who in person did not see?

The Royals!  Victorious!
Bring on the Angels!
On to Los Angelie!

Did you burst out in pride
For the Blue, White and Golden?
Did you cheer like hell
For Alex Gordon?

Did you look up to Heaven,
And simply say “thank you”?
Then look at your best friend,
And crying say “I love you”?

I’m just a blogger
With few writing skills;
But I am once again a Royals fan!

I can tell you the difference
Between Butler and Hosmer,
And (damn) near home runs.

Well I know Jesus,
And I talk to God,
And I remember this from
When I was young.

Faith, hope and love?
Are some good things He gave us.
But the greatest is love.
The greatest is love.

Where were you
When the world stopped turning,
That September day?

Were you waving a towel?
Were you having a cold one?
Or parked on the interstate?

Did you ever believe,
That this could happen?
Did you chew your nails
Until you drew blood?

Did you cry with emotion,
When the twelfth inning happened?
Did you cry so much,
That you caused a flood?

Did you open your eyes,
Believe with a passion?
Did you close your eyes,
And simply pray?

Did you leave for the exits,
Before it was over.
Or did you stay
And keep the faith?

Did you fly in from Tampa,
And drive in from Clinton?
Did you blow off work,
Because that game mattered more?

Did you stay up all night,
Out of excitement?
Or because you
Still cannot believe the score?

I’m just a blogger
With few writing skills;
But I am once again a Royals fan!

I can tell you the difference
Between Butler and Hosmer,
And (damn) near home runs.

Well I know Jesus,
And I talk to God,
And I remember this from
When I was young.

Faith, hope and love?
Are some good things He gave us.
But the greatest is love.
The greatest is love.

The greatest?
Is love.

Where were you
When the world stopped turning?
On that September day?


It's the only song that ran through my head, as Christian Colon crossed home plate last night.

Because last night?  The world as I've always known it?  

Stopped turning.

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Oh, yeah.  This too:



Royals fans?

We've crawled through 500 feet of shit smelling foulness, for this.

Royals fans?  It may have taken us a decade longer than Andy Dufresne.  But welcome to October.

Welcome to October!  (cue the stevo waterworks for a fifty fifth time in the last thirty four hours.)

Last night was the single greatest sporting event I've ever attended, and I have been privileged enough in life to attend quite a few biggies.

Nothing has ever meant more to me, in a sports world sense, than last night.

I dare you to stop the tears, flowing down my face, just thinking about what last night means.  Again -- not meant.

Means.

Now, then, and always ...

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