Thanks to my job as a reporter covering the Kansas City Royals for their flagship radio station, I’ve developed quite a following on Twitter. Recently, one of my followers asked me if I was a fan of the Royals. I replied that, while I like to see the Royals succeed, I don’t consider myself a fan. My response led to a lengthy Twitter discussion about why I’m not a fan of the Royals; some suggested I was a traitor for not unabashedly rooting for the Royals and others assumed I don’t care about the Royals if I’m not a fan of the team.
I can’t help that I grew up in New York City rooting for the New York Mets, rather than in Kansas City rooting for the Royals. I suppose I could toss my past aside and pretend the Royals are the only team I’ve ever cared about, but that would be disingenuous. Even though I do a Royals post-game show and have many people who follow me on Twitter because I cover the Royals, I don’t hide my past or present allegiances. I learned about and fell in love with baseball thanks to the Mets and pretending otherwise would be ignoring a key part of what’s made me who I am.
When I first took the Royals reporter job, just before the start of the 2009 baseball season, I scoured the internet for information about the Royals teams of the previous few seasons, taking detailed notes that almost filled up an entire legal pad. Now, in my fourth season covering the Royals, I feel like know as much about the team as anyone who didn’t grow up following them could. I’ve gotten to know many of the players, coaches and executives – past and present – very well. I enjoy interacting with and talking to Royals fans and I feel I have a good grasp of the fan base’s mood. I like to see the Royals do well – it’s easier and more enjoyable covering a winning team than it is covering a losing team – but I still don’t consider myself a fan.
I am a fan of Syracuse University’s teams, especially football and men’s basketball. I am a fan of the New York Giants. I am a fan of the New York Knicks. I will celebrate the successes of those teams and brood over their failures. I will always wear merchandise with the logos and colors of those teams. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I will always care whether Syracuse, the Giants and the Knicks win or lose. However, if I stop covering the Royals, I will no longer follow them closely. Sure, I’ll still be interested in how they do – I occasionally peruse box scores, rosters and schedules for teams I covered a decade ago – but I will no longer concern myself with their day-to-day activities. I no longer consider myself a Mets fan because I’ve spent the last decade immersed in coverage of other baseball teams, making it difficult for me to follow the Mets closely at the Major League level; this is true even though I covered one of the Mets minor league affiliates for four years.
Some say covering a team you aren’t a fan of is a good thing; it leads to more impartial coverage, they say. I think there are advantages to covering a team you grew up rooting for: you’re already familiar with that team’s history, you know what’s important to that team’s fans and you know how those fans think. And, seeing the inner workings and getting to know the on- and off-field members of a team decreases the chances of a fan-turned-media member becoming an unabashed cheerleader. Even the most plugged in fans are prone to speculation about the motives and character of a player, coach or team, speculation that often isn’t very informed or is based on what others have told them. On the other hand, media who cover a team are less likely to speculate because they have a better idea of what’s going on. And, when they do speculate, it’s usually well-informed speculation based on their intimate knowledge of and on- and off-the-record access to a team and its key players. Unlike fans, media who cover a team every day are less likely to run hot and cold about a team or player’s performance because they usually have a better understanding of the big picture. If you are a fan of a team, covering that team every day will make you less of a fan and more of a shrewd observer.
So, no, I’m not a Royals fan and I doubt I’ll ever really be a Royals fan. But, I do enjoy covering them and I hope they succeed in turning things around and eventually make it back to the World Series. Because, who wouldn’t want to cover a World Series?Follow @raford3