A few years ago, a band called Bowling for Soup came out with a song based on the life of a Gen-X mom called "1985." The song references almost everything I held near and dear from that year and that era... Bruce Springsteen, Madonna (way before Nirvana)... U2, Blondie, music still on MTV...
As much as this song packs into its three beautiful minutes, there is one piece for me, a Kansas City girl born and bred, that is missing:
The Kansas City Royals winning their first World Series.
A closet baseball geek, I don't have memories at any point in my entire life that don't include the dream of growing up to play the organ at Royals Stadium (later named Kauffman Stadium) and a massive crush on George Brett.
Every summer morning from the time I learned to read until the time I discovered boys (my own age... George is a wee bit too old for me), I scoured the sports section for the latest stats, scores and updates about my Royals, the Western Division and the American League.
I remember loathing Billy Martin's every tantrum and memorizing every starting lineup as the Royals climbed their way through the '70's, reaching the 1980 World Series only to fall to the Phillies.
I remember the thrill of our annual trek to the stadium to catch a game with the Colorado cousins (who texted from all over the western United States to congratulate us the past two weeks - - these memories are carved deeply into all our hearts).
And I remember sharing the excitement of the Pine Tar Incident with my BFF as we chatted on the phone while watching George charge towards Tim McClelland in protest.
(full disclosure... I attended a Yankees game at Yankee Stadium the year before it was torn down and found the experience nothing short of holy, but I will never, ever have anything nice to say about the Phillies. I don't care if they cure cancer and resurrect Michael Jackson. Never.)
Year after year, though, the Ultimate Magic happened somewhere else... until 1985, when a team made up of guys who refused to quit brought the magic to Kansas City.
And we were electrified.
We lived on that high for the eight years of post-season disappointment that followed until George Brett's retirement in 1993.
We hung onto that hope another 11 months until the strike of '94.
We rallied briefly amid steroid scandals and big money power plays that made the teams of Major League Baseball unrecognizable when our hometown hero was elected to the Hall of Fame and again when Kansas City hosted the All-Star Game, but for most of the last 20 years, Kansas Citians slowly evolved from beaming with pride to a sad, nostalgic longing, much like Debbie and her dashed Whitesnake dancing dreams from the song above.
Yes, our spirits were down... but our loyalty never faded.
You see, there is no such thing as a "former Royals fan." We are a devoted bunch who, even when kicked down to last place, will not jump on the bandwagon of anyone else's team because we are America's own Royal Family - no matter which ZIP code we claim - and Kansas City, the Royals and the joy the words "Play ball" brought every spring, no matter how dismal the outcome, were stronger than any season's record and would - as we see today - outlast any wait for another World Series.
And now this Gen-X mom, still preoccupied with 1985, is happy beyond measure that the wait is finally over and old enough now to know that, if we have to wait another 29 years before we find another team who refuses to quit, before the city will dust off its blue and pay an ungodly amount of money for tickets and smile and high-five strangers again, it will all be worth it.
Because this is the kind of joy the heart was made for.