For those of you who do not follow baseball, the World Series starts tonight. For the first time in my lifetime, the Kansas City Royals are not only in the playoffs, but they are playing for the championship. Very few, if any, baseball fans would have predicted that this young team with a total payroll of only $92 million (which is the 19th highest in the league) would even make the playoffs, let alone win eight straight playoff games and be playing in the World Series, but they keep finding ways to win. Thanks to their unique combination of great coaching, hard work, and smart scouting, they have found a winning formula that has turned them into this year’s “Cinderella Story.” In addition to everything that the players, coaches, and front office staff for the Royals have done to generate this playoff run, there is another key ingredient that has had a major impact on the team’s success. This important factor will not show up on any stats sheet or be listed on payroll, yet without this critical component there is no doubt in my mind that the Royals would not be playing for the championship this week. This crucial aspect is the powerful connection between the fans, city, and players, and the incredible amount of support that this bond has given the team throughout the season.
Having been a student at both the University of Notre Dame, where football is second only to God, and the University of Kansas, where everyone is a double major (basketball and something else), I know about hardcore fans. I was positive that I would never experience the incredible atmosphere and bond between a team and its fans that would even come close to what I felt at Notre Dame Stadium or Allen Fieldhouse. Over the last few weeks however, this scrappy, little team that could and its phenomenal fans have proven me wrong. I have never seen a city get behind a team the way that Kansas City has recently with the Royals. Of course they are selling out each game and every sports bar in town is packed come game time, but it has gone far beyond this typical level of support in so many ways. Like the way that after the hockey game I attended the other night, the majority of the spectators stuck around to watch the end of the Royals game on the arena televisions. The way that just a few hours after the team had won their divisional series against the Angels, Royals player, Eric Hosmer, picked up the tab for an entire sports bar to show how much the fans mean to the players. The way that rookie pitcher, Brandon Finnegan, replied to a lifelong Royals fan’s plea via Twitter for playoff tickets by not only giving him two tickets, but also joining him for some Kansas City barbecue. This incredible connection between the city and players has not only been a great source of support for the team and a lot of fun to be a part of, but it has also shown me something quite powerful about people and our relationships with each other.
In today’s society, for whatever reason, whether it is being too busy, wanting to maintain our privacy, or something else entirely, we tend to go about our daily lives without interacting with the people around us. Sure, we may smile at another regular at our local coffee shop in the morning or say “hello” to colleagues in the elevator, but for the most part we keep our heads down, ear buds in, and go about our business. While I am all about being focused and getting things done, by putting our blinders on and flying solo all the time we run the risk of missing out on potential opportunities for even greater success by joining forces with others who share a common goal. The power of joining forces this way is wonderfully illustrated by the way that the Royals and their fans have connected in such a deep way, and now they are only four wins away from achieving their common goal of winning the World Series. This phenomenon goes beyond sports though, as it happens around us all the time if you are in the moment enough to see it.
A more meaningful example from my own life (not that anything could be more meaningful than sports) is with my nursing team. Even though I have a team of roughly 10 caregivers, of which one is with me 24 hours a day, the interaction between my nurses is very minimal. At most they see each other for about 10 minutes when they are changing shifts, and this time is filled with things like counting my medications, giving a report about how I am doing that day, and other nursing duties. Fortunately though, I have amazing caretakers who realize that they are all working towards the same end, to give me good care and do so in the easiest way possible. They know that by taking the time to communicate with one another and working together that they can better achieve their goals. By coming together they can do things like trade shifts when someone’s kid gets sick or stay late one day so another nurse can stay for the overtime of her son’s football game. Without making the effort to connect with their colleagues working towards the same goal, these types of spur of the moment schedule changes would be difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish. They are able to achieve better results with less effort simply by creating a connection with others who share a common goal.
As you are watching the Royals play in the World Series this week, take notice during the first two games here in Kansas City of the fans in the stands. Watch them as they pack in to Kauffman Stadium to cheer on their Royals. If you pay attention, you can almost see the intense, powerful connection between the team and fans. Think about how if this strong bond can take a team that had not even made the playoffs since before I was born all the way to the World Series, imagine what it could do for your life. Take the time to make note of other people in your daily life who are pursuing the same goals as you, and start making an effort to get to know them. I’m not saying you should go about speaking to everyone who may be able to benefit you, but more so just to be more open to combining forces with others when the opportunity arises. You will be amazed at how much more you can accomplish.