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Good Riddance

In so many different ways, it’s the difficult moments of our lives that directly cause us to slow down, stop, and take a much closer look at our lives. Think about it. We’ve all had to deal with the death of a loved one at one point or another which, in many cases, is a good reason to think if we’re really living life to its fullest extent. Additionally, earning a poor grade in a class or two in high school and/or college is a wakeup call of the worst variety, giving us doubts as to whether or not we worked as hard as possible that semester. And although it doesn’t hold a candle to the significance of personal loss and failing, there’s rooting for a down-and-out baseball team.

Consider fans of the Kansas City Royals down-and-outed to an infinite degree.

19 consecutive losses will tend to do that to a fan base, especially when the rest of the baseball world keeps on keeping‘ on. Consider this: since the Royals’ last win before The Streak started (on July 27 -- a victory in extra innings over the division-leading White Sox) Ordinary Outfielder Randy Winn hit for the cycle. Ordinary Oriole Rafael Palmeiro proved to be anything but, testing positive for a steroid that’s sometimes used to sedate horses. Accordingly, he had to be suspended for ten days under baseball’s horse tranquilizer policy. Oh yeah, Neifi Perez even drew not one, not two, but three walks in that time span. Yes, the strange-but-true machine had been fired up in that three week-span, spitting out occurrences a Los Angeles Clippers playoff run think are random.

However, that list of occurrences didn’t include a Royals victory, meaning the Blue Wave became the most popular punch line to sports jokes since the 1996 New York Jets went 1-15. Now, nobody likes to be the butt of a joke, but Royals fans are an extreme case. Let’s face it: we’re impatient, always wildly wishing for a winner. And over the last ten years of losing baseball, the Royals have undoubtedly (and understandably) lost fans who‘d had enough, deciding they‘d maximized their emotional quota by cheering for what has been, to be blunt, a decade-long lost cause.

Then there’s Jeff Haught, a man who’d followed the Royals closely for 32 years before turning in his fan card due to this three-week long streak of winless baseball. You’ve probably heard of Haught, who’s been featured in an article by the Kansas City Star’s Joe Posnanski and on David Pinto’s outstanding BaseballMusings.com. However, Haught didn’t just throw his hands up, declare himself finished with the Royals, and spend more time in other areas of his life. Instead, he actually wrote this letter to the other 29 teams in baseball, offering his services as a fan:

    I was, until 10 PM last night, a Royals fan. I had been for 32 years. I moved to Kansas City, in part, to be near the team that I love. Now that love has been destroyed, from the strike year of '94 until now, only one Royals team has been worth following and that was the 2003 team that barely finished above .500. I simply cannot be a fan of a team that can't catch a flyball, field a grounder or win a game that they were in complete control of.

    I have a wife that went to her first baseball game with me and her favorite player, Tony Graffanino, now plays for the Red Sox. My Royals can't even keep around a fan favorite that costs $2m! I also have twin girls that are 5 months old. They will be brought up in a baseball family, watching 3 or 4 games a week and attending 1 or 2 a month. My groom's cake even had a Royals logo on it.

    I have probably spent $10,000 over the years on R's tickets, souvenirs, hot dogs, nachos and pretzels. I and my family won't give the R's any more of my money.

    I'm sending this letter to each and every other major league team. I am setting up an auction for my loyalty. In return for whatever gifts you send me, you will have my and my family's loyalty for the next 10 years with a mutual option for the next 10. This means that I will wear your gear, learn your players, support your team and travel to see your team play.

    This could be worth several thousand dollars to you.

    Just send an email to jbpirate91@yahoo.com with your offer. I will only accept the highest bidder. You will only have to send the merchandise if I choose you. I will be making a decision on August 24 so please respond by then.

I’m not sure why, but even looking at that letter irritates me. Maybe it’s because the premise -- that any Major League Baseball team would pay a guy money to root for their organization -- is entirely ridiculous. Perhaps it’s the whining about a utility man making seven figures being traded for two young, inexpensive, and potentially useful players in Chip Ambres and Juan Cedeno.

Or maybe it’s because of a deeper reason. You see, Jeff Haught has been praised for auctioning off his "services" as a fan. To an extent, it’s understandable, because he’s doing what we all have wanted to do at various points since 1995 -- quit and go root for somebody else. But to me, that’s an easy way out. Sure, times have been extremely tough on Royals fans for a very long time, but is that any reason for somebody to publicly throw both hands in the air and wave the white flag? I don’t think so.

Anybody who becomes so attached to a sports team that they feel compelled to do something like this needs to take a step back and not live through the games with the players. For example, understanding that Mark Teahen -- not me -- just made that throwing error has enabled me to live a happier life because I don’t live and die with the result of every last game. Additionally, going through the tough times only makes the good times sweeter. And while I think myself, David Sanford, and Daniel Smith are alone on this, the good times should start to roll in KC by 2007.

My point is that fans should love their team the same way they do (or would) love their kids: unconditionally, and not because they’re good all the time. I hope however much money Jeff Haught made off of his childish auction is worth not seeing the Royals go to the playoffs in two or three years. Why? Because this fan won’t welcome him back to the fraternity. I can only hope the Royals follow my lead.

Two Other Things...

  • The Royals are expected to make Justin Huber one of their September call-ups today. Huber spent most of the season at Double-A Wichita, hitting .343/.432/.570 before being moved up to Triple-A Omaha in the past month, where he recovered from a very slow start to hit .273/.370/.545 in 110 at-bats.

    I don't think Huber's going to be any kind of a big-time power hitter, but he's going to get on base a lot and hit a ton of mistake pitches into the gaps of all fields. Beats the hell out of Joe McEwing playing first base, if you ask me.

  • There are only four games left in what's been a more-than-successful Springfield Cardinals season, and I've had one hell of a good time working at Hammons Field all summer. I've met some cool people, learned how to deal with the public, and have generally enjoyed being a member of an MLB organization.

    Most of the promotions -- baseball bats, caps, lunchboxes, etc. -- have been really cool as well, but I have a sneaky suspicion that this one isn't going to be anybody's favorite:

    Thursday, September 1 - In honor of Men's Health Month, CoxHealth is providing free prostate cancer screenings for all men over the age of 45 in the first aid room located on the concourse

    Earlier this season, the Cardinals heavily promoted "Great Southern Bank Money Drop Day," a post-game event at which kids were allowed on the field and a helicopter would drop $5,000 worth of Cardinals Dollars (gift certificates) onto the crowd. The end result was -- as a friend of mine who was at the game told me -- mass chaos, crying children, and cuts, scrapes, and bruises galore. Oh yeah, and the helicopter was something like 30 feet off the ground when it dropped the money onto the field. Basically, the promotion was inevitably going to be a failure (and that's if it went well).

    I didn't think I'd ever see a worse promotional idea than that, but prostate cancer screenings? I've been proven wrong. I mean, who the hell is going to go to tomorrow night's game thinking, "Gosh, I haven't had my prostate checked in awhile. Why not get the ol' latex glove treatment at the ballpark before I take in a minor league baseball game?"

    A quick note to the management team of the Cardinals: promotions are supposed to bring people to the park, not make them run away screaming because that night's giveaway is Grab Your Ankles night.

    Prostate cancer is serious, serious business not to be taken lightly, but being checked for it at a ballpark is just plain creepy. Fellas, try to steer clear of the First Aid Room for awhile.
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