By: RANDALL SMITH
Imagine standing in a crowd, 750,000 strong, neck to neck in a major metropolitan city in America.
Imagine cars parked and left vacant on freeways, leaving no room for ambulances to pass through. Imagine everyone dressed in the colour blue.
This happened on Tuesday in Kansas City, a metropolis of about 2 million souls in the centre of America.
The reason: The Kansas City Royals won the so-called World Series of baseball against New York’s Mets, and fans welcomed the team home with a parade.
Americans are crazy about sports. We are world champions at them, because hardly anyone else plays our games.
American football, for example, is so slow-paced Europeans say there is no chance for it to spread elsewhere.
Baseball is a bit different. It is popular in places where Americans fought wars — Japan and Korea.
It is also popular in Latin America, because its best players have a chance to earn millions of dollars if they are good enough to play in the US.
In Kansas City, the Royals catcher won the most valuable player award for the World Series.
His name is Salvador Perez, and he is tough and funny at the same time. He is considered a low-paid player because he only makes $1 million a year.
Where does all of the money come from? Fans were paying $600 for a ticket to stand in the back row during the series.
Television pays hundreds of millions of dollars to broadcast the games.
Advertisers pay even more for a few minutes of airtime. And then, there is the $8 beers and $5 hotdogs.
Everyone does well. The city’s newspaper office was packed with fans buying an estimated 60,000 commemorative editions beyond roughly 200,000 already sold.
Books were being published on the team’s success. T-shirts — normally a few dollars — cost $20 in stores as far as 125 miles away.
By: Tuesday’s standards, the parade in Kansas City was tame.
When the Royals last won the series in 1985, the crowds were so large that they surged past the police barricades, leaving a narrow line for the cars and players to drive through.
The star player, George Brett, rode on a large white horse, and was wearing a massive cowboy hat.
Paper confetti rained down from the top stories of buildings, and it was so voluminous that it covered the cars and portions of the crowd.
The baseball players and their families had to pull the stuff from their eyes, ears and noses.
Some of the confetti slipped below the hoods of three of the parade cars, starting engine fires. One of the players, Willie Wilson, had to be evacuated with his family.
Even so, the crowd grew closer. Only quick action by the fire department kept the fires from spreading to petrol tanks in the cars.
None of this happened last Tuesday. The police had barricades up early and there was plenty of manpower to keep the crowds at bay.
One other difference was the obvious power of social media.
In 1985, people came to the parade dressed in whatever.
In 2015, they were all in blue and white, the Royal’s colours — an effort coordinated largely on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Historians say that sports and competitions between cities were invented to help prevent wars.
There is something primal and unexplainable about the passion. As one fan said: The only thing worse than being in a city with 750,000 fans is not being there.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION