I was fortunate enough to come into possession of some tickets today for the Kansas City Chiefs game against the San Francisco 49ers. Although I hate both the Chiefs and 49ers, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch a professional sporting event, not to mention the second row view. I did not expect much going into the game, since I held no interest in the outcome. I went in with the expectation the 49ers would roll over the Chiefs, because, even though they were 2-0, they are the Chiefs. Not to mention the 49ers were three point favorites on the road and Vernon Davis’ ‘guarantee.’ Then somewhere between a Wildcat reverse flea flicker touchdown pass to D-Bowe and Tony Moeaki’s one handed sprawling snag in the back of the end zone something interesting happened. I was on my feet cheering like crazy and living it up with desperate, victory starved Kansas City fans.
No, I haven’t forgotten this is a Royals site, but being part of the atmosphere started me thinking about how Kansas City has slowly turned from a proud sports town of old into the loveable losers of late. Passionate Kansas City fans have come to learn the destination of their clubs before Spring Training and pre-season games begin, any hope of a turnaround is futile, a sure fire route to heartache.
For a city that has not seen a winning season since 2006 the skepticism is understandable. Even worse, the last play-off victory celebrated around these parts was January 1994. A dedicated fan base in a passionate sports town deserves a lot more than has been offered in professional sports over the last two decades. Slowly the passion has migrated from the pros with the current success of both the University of Missouri and Kansas University. While the collegiate success has been a viable sporting outlet, don’t deny yourselves that Kansas City is a professional sports town.
Warranted or not the Chiefs and Royals will be forever attached. Their achievements, rosters, front offices, even stadium renovations will always spark comparison for no more reason than their homes are literally 200 feet away from each other. Both the Royals and Chiefs have recently overhauled their front offices, injected new schemes, current ideology, and fresh faces in attempts to recreate the success once had in the Kansas City area. Naturally, both rebuilding attempts will be put under the microscope and dissected in every medium for fans to digest. As the Chiefs walk into their bye week at 3-0, the minds of crazed Kansas City fans surely wander to thoughts of greatness and play-off hopes.
Come Monday though, newspapers and radio talk show hosts will slowly take away from the excitement levels of the fans. Media has an interesting and undeniable effect on the sports world. No matter the pulse of the fans, journalists and broadcasters usually overrule popular demand through the expression of their opinions. Any signs of progress are met with cautious optimism. For all the good things happening, it doesn’t take long for commentators to rip to shreds every negative aspect.
When the Royals come from behind for a late inning victory, the light isn’t on the guy who hit the game winner, but instead on how lousy the bullpen is for giving up the lead in the late innings. Even though the Chiefs scratch out a hard earned victory on the road, the only thing talked about is Matt Cassel is a no good and only has a quarterback rating of 55 or why Jamal Charles doesn’t get more carries.
These are the things that have created a losing atmosphere in Kansas City. When the exciting happens, fans have been beaten down so often they lose sight of the possibilities and instead turn to the negatives out of habit. It has become difficult for Kansas City fans to accept success, because it seems like such a long time since it has happened.
While players and coaches will never admit it, the pulse of the fan base is always in the forefront of their minds. The intensity and commitment from a mass of people who really have no connection to the athletes other than the fact they want them to succeed is powerful. A packed house of raucous, loud, and driven fans can turn the tide in the favor of the home team on one play. Look no further than the Monday Night game against the Chargers.
Something always heard about athletes is their ability to ‘play inspired.’ While inspiration comes from many different facets, the blind support from thousands of unknown people usually acts as a pretty good inspiration. While city begins to buzz about the Chiefs success, it makes it even harder for the Royals to walk around town being called bums.
Athletes are creatures of supreme confidence, especially in baseball. To fail at such a high rate, confidence is a must. Playing second fiddle in your own home town begins to chip at the confidence. Every time the Royals take the field in front of an empty ‘K,’ their confidence and pride take respective hits. Surely you can rewind to your childhood when you were part of a big game. What makes those events special are the atmosphere created. The thrill of hearing crowds cheer for something you’ve done.
The Royals roster is comprised of players who tasted success at every level of their journey. All the guys who have made it this far lead their high school, university, and minor league clubs to success. While personal attributes are the ones getting players promoted, team success is the best way to get exposure. When these top athletes become Royals though, they lose part of themselves, their ‘swagger’ if you will.
As the Chiefs stock continues to rise, do not forget about the new Royals regime trying to make their own success stories. Of course there will always be next year for the Royals, but what is wrong with right now? Even though the Royals are 29 games out, don’t lose the hope. Fight the urge to write them off, and begin to re-teach yourselves as fans. We have all learned how to lose pretty well over the last decade, but the reinforcements are coming.
If the Chiefs can make me get up out of my seat and cheer like a little kid again, you can surely renew the love you once had for these two ball clubs. The sporting atmosphere in Kansas City is changing. Take a trip and check it out for yourself. Be on the front edge of the next chapter in Kansas City sports history.
Do not worry, I have already done the research for you. Every day the next week is going to be 75 degrees and sunny so do not hesitate to take a trip out to the ‘K’ with only seven home games left. Go out there and cheer like hell when Zach makes someone look silly or Billy hits one deep. You, your friends and family will have a great time, and the guys will have just as much fun playing in front of someone to watch. It’s a great way to show dedication to the cause, not to mention it will be easier on the billfold than a trip to Arrowhead, trust me.