What is a Kansas City sports fan to do? Everybody says Kansas City is a great sports town. I suppose if you go by the faith and following Kansas City fans have in their sports franchises that is a reasonably accurate claim, to a point. But you certainly can't say the same if you base your assessment on the actual on-the-field performance and season records of the city's two primary professional teams: the Royals and the Chiefs.
Just six short weeks ago, area fans were rejoicing that they could turn their attention and acrimony away from the floundering Royals and look forward with high hopes that the Chiefs would put it all together again under player-friendly new head coach Romeo Crennel and rise up to fulfill the division-winning expectations proffered in the preseason by a number of NFL prognosticators and pundits. What a welcome change that would be.
The Chiefs won two of their last three games last season, including a big home win over previously unbeaten Green Bay, when Crennel was awarded the coaching reins on an "interim" basis after Todd Haley was relieved of his duties after three very up-and-down seasons. That strong finish had everyone optimistic and anxious to see how the Chiefs would respond in a full season under Crennel's leadership.
Things were really looking up after Kansas City easily put away a travel-weary Arizona Cardinals team in the first preseason game this season, even knowing that most of the players on the field in that game were backups and reserves, many of whom aren't even with the team now. Let's hope that first preseason win doesn't turn out to be the highlight of the season.
Since that preseason win over Arizona (which is 2-0 and one of six undefeated teams to start the new season) five weeks ago, the Chiefs' record is 0-5, including two blowout losses to start the new season, almost an exact carbon copy of the way they got things started a year ago. It's one thing to lose games - which, believe me, Kansas City Chiefs' fans have sadly and sickenly grown accustomed to with this team - but the way in which the Chiefs are now losing is even more troubling.
On paper, the 2012 edition of the Chiefs is not the worst football team in the National Football League. But the way they are playing - with little discipline and seemingly without heart or much fight - isn't far from it. And then you hear soft-spoken Crennel describe the team's recent woes in words to this effect: There are a number of problem areas - on offense, defense and on special teams - this team needs to clean up. We just need to work on the things that are causing the problems and get better each and every week. Makes you wonder if Romeo even has a clue what's going on with this team, let alone how to resolve the issues.
If you listened to any of the fan chatter on local sports talk radio this week, and especially on Sunday after the Chiefs' second-half collapse at Buffalo, you know that fans - at least the more outspoken ones - are truly fed up with the Chiefs' performance. And their ire isn't as much directed to the players, or even the coach, as much as it is at the front-office management and ownership of the team.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? That's the same lament that the fans have toward the Royals. You remember them: The team for which this was supposed to be their breakthrough year now that the bulk of their highly touted prospects were up in the Bigs with the parent club. They started off fairly well, splitting their first six games on the road to start the season. Then the roof literally collapsed on the Royals, who lost the next 11 consecutive games, 10 of them at home, to put them in a 3-14 hole to begin the season from which they never recovered.
By the end of July, the Royals stood 19 games under .500 with a 41-60 record and found themselves in familiar territory in the cellar of the AL Central Division, the place where they had finished the season in six of the past dozen years. That's when all but the most devoted of Royals' fans cut their season short, instead shifting their hopes and patronage to the south side of the Truman Sports Complex and the coming NFL season.
Without anyone honestly paying them much attention, the Royals have quietly gone 27-21 since falling to their season-worst mark and are finally playing the kind of baseball that everyone thought they would play right from the beginning this season. If they win four of their remaining 13 games, seven of which are against Detroit, the second-place team in the division, they'll barely exceed last season's pathetic performance. Not much progress, huh?
If the fans had anything to say about it - and they seem to have a lot to say these days - Royals Owner David Glass and Chiefs' owner Clark Hunt would be ridden out of town on a rail. Both owners reportedly are making boat loads of profit off of their investment, but their customers, the fans who fork over increasing amounts of money for the pleasure and privilege of seeing both teams play, you have to admit, are hardly being entertained or receiving their money's worth.
If this were a one-year sad-sack saga, it would hardly be worth writing or speaking out about. But we are talking over two and a half decades for the Royals and nearly two decades for the Chiefs since either team has won with any consistency.
Since the Royals won their World Series championship in 1985, the team has failed to make it back to the MLB playoffs even one time. Moreover, during that time, the Boys in Blue have had only six winning seasons out of 27. Most companies would be out of business with that kind of performance record. It's a wonder anyone goes to the ballpark in this town any more.
And the Chiefs, who used to rule in this town, haven't been much better and may be even worse off at this point. It has been 19 years since the guys out at Arrowhead Stadium have won an NFL playoff game. They've been there seven times since the 1993 season, but have only come out of the first round a winner one time. Over the last 10 seasons, the Chiefs have had four head coaches and only four winning seasons.
Thank goodness for Sporting Kansas City, the city's Major League Soccer franchise, or we wouldn't have any professional teams in this area to truly feel good or confident about throwing our support behind. Sporting has already captured the U.S. Cup this season and, with a 16-7-6 record and a four-point leadt in the Eastern Conference of the MLS, is a strong contender to win its third MLS Cup championship.
Candidly, those of us in Kansas City are truly fortunate to have two professional sports teams in the two of the most popular spectator sports right here in our hometown, despite being one of the smallest professional sports markets.
I don't think anyone wants to see either team leave town. But neither do the fans want to continue to support habitual losing efforts by two teams that don't seem to want to get any better, even if the teams in question repeatedly tell us that is Job One.
Like it or not, though, nothing is going to change in terms of winning more games than you lose and contending for championships until there is transformational change in the thinking and actions of the men who make the decisions off the field at both ends of the Truman Sports Complex. You don't have to have a degree in quantitative analysis to figure out that the problems that afflict both the Chiefs and Royals go way beyond the players on the field.
Until we see changes upward in the two organizations, I'm afraid you and I can expect to see, same old, same old down on the field...where winning and losing is ultimately achieved.
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