Rob Neyer has a very good — and uncharacteristically personal — post up today about the Royals. He was a fan dating back to 1976. Then, six or seven years ago they lost him through mismanagement, contempt for their fans and overall misery. And now he wonders: is it too late to come back?
Is my love for my Royals gone, or merely dormant? I don’t know. I will be checking the minor-league stats for all those prospects Dayton Moore has assembled. Maybe that means I’m already there. But checking stats for a few minutes every week is one thing; investing three hours of baseball time every night is quite another.
When the Royals’ hot prospects begin joining the big club, I suspect that I’ll tune in, for curiosity’s sake. Will I stick with them through 2012, when they’re fighting to avoid 90 losses?
That will be the real test, and I don’t have the slightest idea. For most of my life, I was a Royals fan, that particular shade of blue coursing through every vein in my body. Today, I don’t know what I am.
I don’t know that you can come back once you’re gone. Sports mean a lot to us, but once we lose that connection — be it to a certain team or to a sport as a whole — we also realize that the connection is tied up in sentimentality and irrationality and all kinds of things that we realize, ultimately, we can do without if forced to. In some ways it’s like love: you don’t fall into it consciously, via some studied decision. And when you fall out, you can’t decide just to fall back into it again.
Which, in Rob’s case, is probably OK. He’s immersed in baseball every day and has obviously learned how to find joy in it without an active rooting interest. And of course, because of what he does for a living, he’s not going anywhere.
But your average fan can decide to move on if they find themselves in Rob’s shoes vis-a-vis the Royals. It’s probably a good thing for those who own and run sports teams to remember that there’s no law of nature that keeps us watching, rooting and buying.