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The Kansas City Royals' Huge Appeal

The Kansas City Royals Huge Appeal The Atlantic


 According to an ESPN poll, the majority of fans in 47 out of 50 states were rooting for Kansas City to beat Baltimore. Vice Sports called the Royals “the most exciting team in the playoffs.”  Newspapers from Seattle to Washington, D.C. have dubbed KC “America's Team.” Even overseas, The Independent (UK) noted that America is "falling in love with the Royals."

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Because wildcard underdogs are so cheer worthy:

No baseball team had ever started a postseason with eight straight wins. The 2014 Royals just did. Breaking a record set by the 1976 Reds and 2007 Rockies, Kansas City won its eighth consecutive playoff game last night, sweeping past Baltimore to take the AL Pennant.


Ultimately, sports fandom is all about self-identification. So many of us love teams and athletes because we see ourselves in their stories. This Royals club, with their unlikely and unprecedented playoff run, clearly is telling a story that the nation wants to hear. It's about teamwork and the triumph of the underdog, the raw power of self-confidence, and the seemingly mystical effect of faith.

America, despite not being an actual underdog since the War of 1812, certainly does loves an underdog story. The Royals are that. For 29 years, this once-proud team had endured a savage, embarrassing postseason drought; the longest in all North American professional sports. Now this troop of mostly homegrown kids and castoffs have stormed into the World Series.

The Royals are also a great story because they play an unusual, exciting, nostalgia-tinged brand of baseball. With the fewest home runs of any team in the majors, they are the epitome of “small ball,” winning with speed, pitching, timely hitting, and ridiculously good defense. Manufacturing runs from what feels like thin air, their style hearkens to a better kind of baseball, before steroids warped the game, erasing so much of its subtlety.

Over this dreamlike postseason, fans have watched the team get better, day by day, inning by inning.

Consider how the Royals scored in the final game of ALCS. Alcides Escobar beat out an infield single. Nori Aoki was hit by a pitch. Lorenzo Cain bunted both runners over. Eric Hosmer hit an easy grounder, but Baltimore catcher Caleb Joseph dropped the throw home and both runners scored. 2-0 and the ball never even left the infield.

That taut style of play also makes for tense games, surely adding to the Royals' appeal. Of their eight postseason wins, four have been in extra-innings. Only one, the ALDS clincher, was decided by more than two runs.

They are a team without stars. Their very make-up demands it. Everyone on the roster must be a “role player.” Better yet, they like it that way. These players take pride in their willingness to sacrifice—often literally—for the good of the team.

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