Royals’ underdog hype needs reexamination

It was 1985 when the Kansas City Royals last went to the World Series. Nylon spandex, mullets and David Hasselhoff were all the rage. Cell phones were the size of my face. Now, almost three decades later, the Royals have entered the World Series arena once again. USA Today called their success remarkable. Their journey is being touted as a true Cinderella story that has most of the nation rallying behind them. This underdog title, focusing on the Royals Renaissance that popped up out of nowhere, however, is untrue and rather detrimental to the KC spirit.

Grace Wang | Daily Trojan

Grace Wang | Daily Trojan

After 29 years of frustration and agony, Kansas City streets have erupted with cheers for the Royals. Happy tears and hugs between spectators close each game. October has been declared “Blue October,” in honor of the team color. And, according to a poll conducted by ESPN, Royals fandemonium has extended throughout the country as well, with 69 percent of the nation predicting a victory for the Royals in the World Series.

I have to confess now that I’m from Kansas City, so I am biased toward my hometown team. It’s a mentality bred in me because everyone there has blue-colored pride running through his or her veins. Kansas City hasn’t always been known for its sports culture (looking at you, Chiefs), yet before the recent winning streak, the fans were every bit the loyal Royals they are today. In witnessing the rest of America capitalize upon the success of my team, I’m getting quite territorial. Where were you guys when we “sucked”?

When pushed off to the side as a team that didn’t matter by most of the sports-watching American population, the Royals at least had a family of supporters who knew the team’s true worth. It was never the winning or losing that brought everyone together; it was the atmosphere of the game. Now, after garnering some attention for their wins, a lot of the hype has actually focused on the team’s past failures. Yes, in 2005 there were a total of 106 brutal losses, but do we really have to bring that up? The Royals are performing well right now, and that’s what matters.

More importantly, I question supporting an underdog just on the basis the team being an underdog. It’s heartwarming because it’s rooted in justice and sympathy, but another component of support for anyone coming into the limelight is that they are fresh and new. Consumer culture forces people to cycle blindly through trends — whether it’s Silly Bandz or Wiz Khalifa — before we actually understand their value. In the present, the fad can be refreshing, but it’s usually abandoned by the time “the next big thing” comes around. My fear is that the Royals will someday become a trend of the past akin to scrunchies. When that day comes, the underdogs will become overdogs. It’s a phenomenon perpetuated by our fascination with declaring our allegiances with the “loser.”

Just like television or movies, sports can be an escape for audiences. The Royals have allowed me to find that diversion from a busy life many times. I hope that this team is on the track to becoming a classic. Maybe a player will even get a candy bar named after him. As Lorde put it in her song, aptly named “Royals,” let me live that fantasy.


Danni Wang is a sophomore majoring in psychology. Her column, “Pop Fiction,” runs Mondays.