We’re used to stories about addiction in sports, but this is a new one. Apparently the Kansas City Royals’ unfathomable rise to the World Series after almost three decades of incompetence was almost scuttled well before they even clinched a Wild Card berth thanks to the team’s fixation with the Clash of Clans mobile game.
The sight unnerved Rusty Kuntz as he entered the visitors’ clubhouse at Fenway Park on July 20. The Royals had just dropped their third game in a row, silenced by Boston ace Jon Lester, and had fallen below .500 for the first time in a month. They had tumbled from first place in their division and appeared content with floundering through the season’s second half.
When Kuntz walked inside the room, he saw a scene that had become all too familiar in recent weeks: a collection of Royals with their heads down, eyes locked on their iPads. The game was called “Clash of Clans,” and for a period of time this summer, its excessive usage by members of this club exasperated the coaching staff.
“At that time, in that situation, it’s really disappointing,” said Kuntz, the team’s first-base coach. He added, “You just got to a point where you go, ‘What’s the priority here? Is this just three hours out of your time, spent away from what you’re actually being interested in?
‘We’ve got to find a way to get this changed, so that the priority is the game, and all this other stuff is secondary.’ ”
There are plenty of stories in the annuls of baseball history about locker room distractions and hi-jinks. Former New York Yankee outfielder and current convicted rapist Mel Hall used to bring either a tiger, a cheetah, or panther into the clubhouse during the 1990 season. The point isn’t that these distractions exist, it’s that teams are able to rise above them. The 1990 Yankees finished in dead last place. The 1986 Mets, however, went on to win a Word Series title despite their rumored predilection for cocaine.
How did the Royals get their wild iPad gaming addiction under control? They had an intervention.
As the season burned, “Clash of Clans” acted as the fiddle.
A series of events helped arrest their descent. Before the team left Boston that Sunday in July, manager Ned Yost held a closed-door meeting and implored the players to show more energy. The next afternoon in Chicago, Kuntz beseeched his outfielders to focus their energies on the diamond.
After a loss to White Sox ace Chris Sale that night, the Royals fell two games below. 500. The whispers about Ned Yost’s job security intensified as general manager Dayton Moore flew to meet the team. Amid the tumult, Raul Ibañez approached James Shields. Ibañez suggested a players-only meeting.
The meeting worked. Well.
In the days after the meeting, the Royals won 16 of their next 19 games. The iPad usage became less conspicuous. Dyson insisted he planned on deleting the game all together.
“It’s ending,” he said. “I’m ending it. I’m winding it down. I’m toning it down. I’m trying to tone it down. It’s going to be hard, but I’m trying to tone it down.”
I feel for Dyson. Me and my wife were once viciously addicted to Farmville and I didn’t break free until I destroyed my entire spread of land and spelled out the words “F*ck Farmville” in hay bales. Sadly, my wife is still in the grips of that time waster.
As I type this, the Royals are losing 5-0 in game 1 of the World Series. Stay strong Jarrod, don’t backslide.
Source: Kansas City