we are the champions, but more so me

The Kansas City Royals have won the 2015 World Series. If that statement is news to you, I hope the rock under which you live has a quality central heating system because it’s about to get cold outside. So many people have said so many things about this unthinkable phenomenon that I’m not sure I can add much more to the conversation. But that’s not going to stop me this time.

I really like to make a big deal of the fact that I began religiously watching the Royals in 2005. In that year, they played on a TV channel called RSTN, which had some of the worst picture quality you’ll see on a 21st century sports broadcast. Since I was only twelve years old during that season, most of the Royals games went later than my bedtime, so I’d fall asleep listening to Denny Matthews’ unflappable voice on the radio. That year the Royals won only 56 games and lost 106. I’ve been following them with zeal ever since.

The reason I tell people so often that I’ve been following the Royals for a decade now is because I want them to know I’ve gone through the wringer with this team. For years, the Royals were a group of also-rans shooting for even fourth place in the AL Central, and usually missing that by a lot. I stuck with them through those dark, dark times, long before the days of Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and company. Guys like Doug Mientkiewicz, David DeJesus, and Mark Teahen were the Royals’ heroes then, but who even remembers their names now?

I found it really frustrating this postseason when people I specifically remembered to be vociferously against baseball in high school were all of a sudden losing their minds for the Royals. Other people who had made constant cracks about how bad the Royals had been were suddenly going on emotional tirades about how proud they were of this team. How was that fair? I wondered. These people were basking in the glory without enduring the struggle!

As I so often am, I was reminded of a story told by a dude I’ve really come to like. That dude is Jesus, and in Matthew 20 he told the following story:

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Now, I doubt very much whether Jesus was talking about Royals fans in this passage. He was really talking about people who have been devout Christians since they were born getting whiny about guys like Ted Bundy who become Christians just before they die. Like me, they asked, “How is that fair, when I was the one who was faithful when it was hard?” I guess the answer is that it doesn’t have to be fair. In the end, a denarius, eternal salvation, and a World Series title are all great rewards, whether you endured for them little or much. That’s a little something called grace.

So whether you have been a Royals fan since the franchise began in 1969 or you just started watching this team a week and a half ago, welcome aboard the bus. Rex Hudler is driving and it’s sure to be a wild ride. I suppose it doesn’t matter how long you’ve had to wait for this to happen. It’s here now, and we all might as well enjoy it.

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