Sunday, November 1, 2015, was one of the most exciting, nerve-wracking nights of my life. That evening, my brother, Tony, my sister-in-law, Mary, and I sat in my brother’s living room and watched game 5 of the World Series. Our hometown team, the Kansas City Royals, was up three games to one against the New York Mets. As the courageous players on the field sweated, shouted, batted, and ran around the field, Tony, Mary, and I screamed, cried, laughed, cheered, bit our nails, passed around a bottle of Tums, and held our three dogs as if they were comforting, broken-in stuffed animals.
Though the dogs were part of our nervous ritual, they seemed oblivious to all of the excitement as they slept through the majority of the game. The dogs finally roused themselves into a frenzy during the 12th inning when the Royals finally broke the 2 runs to 2 runs stalemate and took charge of the game. Tony, Mary, and I screamed, cheered, clapped, and jumped around the room as the dogs barked and yelped as they ran around our legs and nipped at our heels. The whole surreal scene became even more erratic when a third strike was called on the batter at the plate, which created the third out for the New York Mets in the bottom of the 12th inning. The final score was 7 to 2. The Royals had just triumphed in game 5 of the World Series and clinched the title of World Champions by winning four out of the seven scheduled games. Tony, Mary, and I stood in the middle of the living room. All three of us were welded together in a deep hug as we jumped up and down and continued to scream. We laughed and cried simultaneously as we watched our favored team racing out of the dugout and onto the field as the players yelled, hugged, and danced in victory. Then the first loud boom filled the air.
“The fireworks have started,” Tony shouted as he untangled himself from our embrace and ran across the living room to the front door. Tony pulled the door open and all three of us stepped out onto the porch. We listened for a moment as the fireworks boomed all around us. Even our elderly neighbors across the street got into the spirit of the moment. The senior couple opened their front door, tossed out two firecrackers, and then shut the door, turned off the lights, and went to bed.
But the celebration wasn’t over. Tony, Mary, and I continued to listen to the booming until the night suddenly grew still. Then, out of the darkness, we heard voices loudly screaming and shouting. “WWWOOOOOO!” The echo of the voices reverberated all around us. I was surprised that the voices were coming in the direction of the next neighborhood to the north of us. The sounds were so joyful and crystal clear I imagined a thousand angels were rejoicing. Tony, however, was not going to be outdone on such a joyful night. He took a deep breath, cupped his hands around his mouth, and hollered a loud “WOOOOO!” of his own into the starry night sky. Within seconds, there was a response. The disembodied voices shouted again. “WOOOO-HOOOO!” Tony, Mary, and I laughed uproariously before Tony once more sent out a cheer of his own. “WOOOOO!” Two seconds later, the answering “WOOOOO-HOOO!” came back to us from out of the darkness. Tony, Mary, and I laughed again as I thought about Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Our shouts into the night reminded me of the back and forth “do-do-do-do-do” music when contact was made with the aliens. Some unseen, unknown living creatures had just made contact with us in the overwhelming joy of the Kansas City Royals wining the World Series. The whole neighborhood and the brilliant night sky seemed to be joining us in celebration. The whole effect was silly, funny, and incredibly thrilling.
“Let’s go back inside,” Tony finally suggested. “Let’s watch the Royals celebrating their victory.” Mary, Tony, and I went back into the house and once more gathered around the TV in the living room. With tears and laughter, we watched the celebration from Queens, New York, for a few minutes before deciding that we really needed to get some sleep. It was already after midnight and the exhilarating fatigue from the stress and excitement of watching the game was finally crashing down on us. We all hugged each other one more time before retiring to our bedrooms.
I couldn’t sleep though. I was still too excited. I laid awake for a half hour more thinking about the game. I was excited for my team, my family, and my hometown. After just returning to Kansas from California two months ago, I felt connected once more to my community. I lay in bed and thought about the games that I had watched over the last few months. I suddenly realized that my attraction to the games was not about sport but about spirit. All of the skillful players had proven themselves consistently on the field, but it is the team’s ability to rally back up to fighting mode even after a rough play that attracted the most attention. The Royals have an amazing ability to come back fighting hard and putting in every effort even as they fall behind. The team’s Never-Give-Up attitude kept them in the game long after many others may have already counted them out. The players never lost focus of their goals or dreams even when the odds seemed stacked against them. Their drive and determination never faltered even after losing the World Series to the New York Giants last year. The Royals returned to the field stronger, faster, and better even after that downfall. The loyalty and dedication the manager and players showed to each other created an steadfast foundation that could not be shaken. The team was truly a “Band of Brothers” that stuck together during tough times. The Kansas City Royals deserved the win!
Right before I fell asleep, I thought about how the spirit of the Royals and this World Series win, thirty years after their last World Championship in 1985, united the people of Kansas City and inspired a strong, determined, never-say-die community. But again, I am beginning to realize that that is what sets Kansas City apart from any other place where I have lived. I thought about my family, friends, and new contacts in Kansas. I’m surrounded by hard-working, God-fearing, America-proud citizens. Kansas, there really is no place like home!