KANSAS CITY – The single finest gut in this country full of heaving flesh belongs to a man named Jimmy Faseler. Because he is a generous soul, Faseler understands he cannot keep such a gift to himself. It deserves to be untethered from the shackles of clothing and fight the good fight against gravity. So Monday during the sixth inning of the most important baseball game in Kansas City in nearly a quarter-century, inside a stadium with an 8,820-square-foot Jumbotron, Faseler nodded to a man roaming the stands with a video camera, the man nodded back and their synchronicity birthed this.
The Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 7-1. They set a franchise record by striking out 17 batters in a nine-inning game. Starter James Shields, the prize acquisition in their controversial offseason trade of budding star Wil Myers, dominated Cleveland. Kansas City inched within 2½ games of a wild-card slot with a dozen left to play. And the star of the game was a 28-year-old from nearby Independence, Mo., who is studying for his masters in counseling, works with at-risk youth and enjoys horrifying the masses with a helicoptering stomach that challenges the laws of physics and decorum.
"One of the most important things about a dancer is being in control of every extremity," Faseler said by phone on his way home from Kauffman Stadium. "I would consider that the fifth extremity."
Faseler stands 6-foot-2, weighs 300 pounds and needed only one beer to become famous. He is a Jumbotron regular at Kauffman Stadium with a patented move he calls "Bringing the Thunder." With one gyration, his gray hooded sweatshirt started the ascent up his torso. By the second, a peek of skin crept out above his beltline. Upon the fifth, Faseler had proven Newton's Second Law correct: mass times acceleration did equal force, and his belly button was giggling at us to prove it. At the end, with the image seared into the minds of all 15,413 in attendance, Faseler had planted a mission-accomplished flag in everyone's hearts: the thunder was indeed brought.
So transfixing was it, the Royals fetched him from his seat and brought him out for an encore performance with the team's mascot, Sluggerrr, following the final out. Little did Sluggerrr realize he may have been Wally Pipped.
"Cleveland's got the guy with the drum in left field. This is our guy," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "We need to bring him back.
"He's got phenomenal moves for a big guy. He's got good core stability. He was really doing it."
Throughout the Royals' clubhouse, as they broke down the details of their victory, they really just wanted to talk about the fat guy breaking it down on scoreboard. When asked to relive the moment, Royals designated hitter Billy Butler, perhaps the most qualified to judge, looked at a slow-motion video replay of Faseler and offered the sort of critique likely to be plagiarized someday by a dance critic.
"Oh. Ugh. Uggggh," Butler said.
Minutes earlier, comedian Rob Riggle, a native Kansas Citian and lifelong Royals fan, had strolled by in the clubhouse. If the Royals have a celebrity fan, it is Riggle, and the simple fact that he bore witness to a meaningful baseball game here in September made this a memorable enough night already. To understand the plight of the Royals fan, one must look into the gyrating folds of Faseler's midsection and get hypnotized back in time nearly 30 years.
Faseler might be the archetypal Royals fan. He was born in August 1985, two months before they won the World Series. Despite being raised in Springfield, Mo., by Cardinals fans, he found himself transfixed by Bo Jackson and the fact that he was born the same year they last won and was a closeted Royals fan until he went public with his loyalties while still in college. Rooting for the Royals is dangerous. It necessitates masochism, self-loathing and the knowledge that sports will hurt.
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It is also what drew Faseler and Riggle and others to Monday night's game. The inkling of hope that maybe this is different, that maybe leaping over three teams into the privilege of the one-game wild-card playoff isn't a stretch. That giving up 6½ years of Myers for two of Shields so they could win and win now wasn't as short-sighted as it seemed. That finally, after all these years, this is a team worth dancing for.
"I've been shocked many times in my life," Riggle said. "You can put it on a scale if you want. One to 10. I don't care. From the Hindenburg to ... this. This cut deep. I needed a minute. I had to go walk it off. Think about who I am, what I believe in, where I want to go. That kind of stuff.
"It was the best thing I ever saw in my whole life."
This was not Faseler's first thunderclap. He said he's batting 1.000 when it comes to Jumbotron appearances at Kauffman Stadium and ended up on last year's best-of montage, too. How it took this long for such a heartfelt mashup of the Jersey Shore guys and the lovely ladies at the local strip club to go viral is itself one of the nation's greatest mysteries. Say this much about America: We love fat guys. We love dancing. And we really love fat guys dancing.
Maybe, just maybe, it was his time because it is the Royals' time. It takes a special sort of cruelty to punish a fan base with as much bad baseball as Royals devotees have been treated to since 1985. Even this week, when manager Ned Yost blundered away a pair of games, the general sense of doom that pervades a city hardened by years of it came to life once again. The sunshine grinning through these clouds was Jimmy Faseler.
"We were talking at work today," he said. "They were asking, 'Do you think the Royals can still do it?' And I said, 'Who cares? They're still relevant in September.' I was born [in] '85. I've never witnessed that."
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It doesn't take much, you know. Just a ballgame with a little import, back-to-back triples from Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain, a lead for the Royals and some unspoken agreement with the cameraman who was about to make him famous. First, Twitter fell in love with Faseler, and then he made his way into blogs and newspapers, and TV news shows will grab their pound(s) of flesh, and he could be back on Tuesday when the Royals face the Indians once more, if the team understands that a pair of tickets for him and his roommate will ensure a gigantic roar of approval from people who want nothing more than to love this team.
There's just one catch. Faseler may have to upgrade his wardrobe before an encore appearance. About 20 minutes after Fox Sports Kansas City went to break with Faseler jiggling in slo-mo, he got a text from his mom.
"Hey, sweetie, saw you on TV," it said. "You need a longer shirt."