Kansas City Royals: The Mental Edge

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Oct 11, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland (56) celebrates after getting the last out against the Baltimore Orioles in game two of the 2014 ALCS playoff at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals have blasted their way through the 2014 playoffs. They have begun the post-season with 6 straight victories, eliminating the team with the best run-differential in baseball (Oakland A’s), the best record in baseball (Los Angeles Angels), and won two straight games against the A.L. East champion Baltimore Orioles—who won what is widely-regarded as the toughest division in baseball.

Are the Royals really that much better than their competition?

As much as Royal fans would like to say, “yes”, the answer to that question is, “no”. They really aren’t.

What I think is happening is that that circumstance, talent, and desire, have coincided to let the Royals play with a mental edge their opponents have not been able to replicate.

Right now, the Royals are playing at the very peak of their ability. And that’s a rare thing for any group of 25 individuals to achieve.

I learned what a mental edge could do 14 years ago. Year 2000, my father caught 3 concurrent infections and spent a month in the hospital. His condition was desperate. He only survived due to spectacular care from his team of health care professionals at old Baptist Memorial Hospital in Kansas City.

As I went to the hospital day after day during that month, I believed I was watching my father die.

At the time, my favorite hobby was a complicated WW2 air combat simulation called Air Warrior. Air Warrior was one of the first true MMORGs, a massively multi-player online game with a steep learning curve. AW’s flight physics model was sophisticated enough that most of the tactics in Robert Shaw’s seminal book Fighter Combat: Tactics and Maneuvering actually worked in the game.

I never played better than during that month.

Night after night, as I came home from my father’s bedside, the last thing I wanted was to think about what was happening. I threw myself into the game with a focus I had never been able to achieve before. For the few hours I was playing Air Warrior, I was numb.

It helped me sleep at night.

The day I shot down 3 internet aces in a 3 vs. 1, I knew something weird was going on.

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