By CHRIS RASMUSSEN
This is Kansas City sports' low ebb. It is sometimes impossible for a Kansas City sports fan to find anything even vaguely optimistic.
The Royals are in last again and mired in a 10-game losing streak, using every bread, circus and promotion available to distract fans save batting Verne Troyer in the lineup. And then there's last night, which I'm not willing to talk about just yet.
The Chiefs also appear headed for a losing season, as their offense features an untested quarterback, three new starters on the offensive line and a moody star running back. We do not have an actual winter tenant for the Sprint Center, and even the minor league Brigade is in the cellar.
So I'm desperate for anything positive. By coincidence, last night was Zach Greinke's turn in the rotation.
Greinke's story is well chronicled elsewhere: Two years ago Greinke, the most talented pitcher generated by the Royals in decades, left the team suffering from clinical depression and social anxiety disorder. Now, after a successful comeback, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball. He is an artist on the mound, cunning and precise at an incredibly young age.
If I only read about his struggles and never heard him speak, I would root for him. Listening to him in an interview enhances my interest in Greinke; he does not spout clichés like other players trained by Scott Boras' minions. He is refreshingly honest and engaging in interviews, particularly compared to other athletes. Greinke's demeanor off the field makes him more human, helping me identify with both his previous struggles and his present success.
It is difficult to root for millionaires who were spoiled at an early age due to their athleticism. The late David Halberstam once described an athlete as "athlete-nice," meaning that the player was not a raging egomaniac and capable of some self-awareness. Greinke is "athlete-sympathetic" -- to the extent one is capable to sympathize for a multimillionaire, Greinke is a worthy candidate.
In a profession often devoid of sympathetic human beings, Greinke is a rarity. I root for him, irrespective of the name he wears on the front of his jersey.