“It’s a pretty good day to be from Kansas City,” Barack Obama said. “You guys are kind of cocky right now.” On October 1st, the United States president acknowledged the recent feats of athleticism showcased by Kansas City sports teams. On September 29th, the KC Chiefs (football) defeated the New England Patriots by the score of 41-14. Furthermore, Chiefs’ fans set the world record for loudest stadium crowd noise at 142.2 decibels. On September 30th, the KC Royals (baseball) won their first Playoff game in 29 years (As of October 4th, the Royals are one win away from playing in the American League Championship Series). And finally, on October 1st, Sporting KC (soccer) visited the White House to celebrate their MLS Cup Championship from December.
All of this has added up to be the best week in Kansas City sports history (at least, the history of my life). A native of this beautiful city, I have never been so amazed with our sports teams. Despite the strong determination they possess, Kansas City athletes have had a rough history, always being defeated by bigger, better, and richer teams. As a result, our city has always been ignored. Very rarely do the members of media talk about us. Very rarely are our games nationally televised. Very rarely does ESPN create segments dedicated to the fans of Kansas City.
But this week was different. This week, we were living in paradise. As A. Bartlett Giamatti illustrates in his work Take Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games (1989), one who lives in a physical and mental world of choice where every choice is free of error is living in paradise. This week, it seemed like all the choices we were making were completely free of error. The coaches and managers called all the right plays. The players mastered the execution of these plays. And finally, the fans, who decided to sacrifice their time to become passionate spectators, were the driving force behind the success of KC sports. Everything went our way this week, because we made all the right decisions. As a result, we have not been ignored this week. After the Chiefs obliterated New England and the Royals won the first three games of the Playoffs, numerous news articles and TV reports put Kansas City in the national spotlight.
From a fan’s perspective, all this attention feels like a holiday. Giamatti explains that any time in which we are free from work is a holiday. Any time we utilize a holiday to engage in leisure, as either a participant or a spectator, we have the ability to make free choices. Considering this week has felt like a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, I have had no option but to give myself a holiday. Even though I had two exams this past week, I told myself that I had to watch each and every KC sports game, because it was just too big of a deal. I felt the freedom, the escape from the pressures of school, and a sense of pride.
Giamatti goes on to say, “When people win together, the joy is more intense than when any of us wins alone, because part of any true pleasure is sharing that pleasure…” Even though I had experienced the joy alone (no one around here is a KC fan), the feeling I got from watching our city win over and over again was amazing, because I felt a magical connection to all my close friends and family back home. Seeing my peers’ social media statuses made me feel as if sports were uniting us together, no matter how far we may have been from each other. And I truly felt like I was cheering along 80,000 screaming fans that Monday night when our fans set the world record.
Giamatti’s Take Time for Paradise reminds me of why I am such a big KC sports fan. Growing up, I always struggled with playing sports, because of my small size. No matter how hard I worked, I never excelled like my friends, who were always naturally bigger, faster, and stronger than me. I was always the last-picked kid. If there were tryouts, I never made the cut. I never felt accepted, and it made me sad, because I knew I loved sports more than anyone else.
But with Kansas City sports, I felt accepted. I felt like I could fit in much more easily. I didn’t need to have any talents. I didn’t need to have any athleticism. I didn’t need to be of a certain weight, height, or speed to excel as a fan. All I needed was passion for my teams, for my people, and for my city. That’s why this week has been special. All the hard work that my fellow Kansas City citizens and I have put in is finally paying off. To know that I am a part of the reason why we are so successful right now is incredible.
This type of fulfillment actually goes beyond myself, and it goes beyond sports. It’s hard for me to explain how this all feels, but Giamatti’s description is spot-on: “Winning for player or spectator is not simply outscoring; it is a way of talking about betterment, about making oneself, one’s fellows, one’s city, one’s adherents, more noble because of a temporary engagement of a higher human plane of existence.” That’s why this week has felt like paradise for me and my city.