What A Championship Means To Me & K.C.: A Guest Post
A retired European gentleman lifts the Cup.
For the past two years reader/commenter/friend KCGunner have been engaged in an going conversation- via Twitter, this site, and in person- on a number of topics: religion, men’s style, barbecue, and most often, the fates of our MLS clubs. We’ve even been to a few Sporting KC – New England Revolution matches together, the most recent of which was miserable (for both of us) on more levels than I could possibly recount here. I’ve even become an official member of the Sporting KC supporters club (screen name: NewEnglandRevolutionFan) in order to get free tickets to these matches!
In the wake of Sporting’s defeat of Real Salt Lake to win MLS Cup, I reached out to their number one fan on the East Coast and asked if he’d be interested in writing a few words about what the victory meant to him both in a football context and in the larger context of sports in Kansas City. Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is, but I guess that’s because I’m a few years older than KCGunner and can actually remember the World Champion Kansas City Royals of Brett Saberhagen, George Brett, Dan Quisenberry, and New England’s own Steve Balboni- who still owns the club’s single season home run record. I mean 1985 was only…oh…almost 30 years ago.
Twenty-nine. Twenty-one. Thirteen.
If you grow up in Kansas City, these are instantly recognizable (at least the first two) as the numbers of years since the Royals or Chiefs respectively, have won a playoff game. In the Royals case, it’s been that long since they even made the playoffs. The final number was how long it had been since Sporting Kansas City (née Wizards) had last won MLS Cup. That number carries less cultural weight in Kansas City only because soccer was less than an afterthought when the Wizards won in 2000.
Since then, the team was almost moved to Philadelphia or San Antonio, depending on which reporter you believe, and spent 3 years toiling in a minor (and I do mean minor) league baseball park when the first stadium site fell through. The massive turnaround that has received so much column ink the past week began in 2011, with the opening of Sporting Park. Suffice it to say, no one, not even the most loyal supporter in the Cauldron, could have foreseen Sporting KC’s success before the stadium broke ground in 2010. Even when the stadium opened in 2011, Sporting KC’s success was an open question. But Sporting’s young, innovative local ownership group, and a smart plan for player development executed by Peter Vermes and staff, as well as a core group of talented, hard-working players have ensured the franchise’s long-term success. Over the past three seasons they have won Kansas City’s heart with a combination of grit and flair. And that combination has produced Kansas City’s first meaningful pro sports champion in three decades.
Sporting Kansas City won MLS Cup on Saturday night, in thrilling fashion and in front of 20,000+ loud home fans. Where others might see just another team they don’t care about winning a title, I saw my first professional trophy won by any of my teams in any sport in my conscious lifetime. In a city that, like me, had been conditioned to look for clouds behind every silver lining, Sporting KC brought daylight. In a city that has come to know like a dreaded relative doom, futility, and the cruel depths of comic, idiotic, abject failure that prompt only a knowing, cynical chuckle, Sporting KC dared to ask fans to hope. And our city was so starved for something to hope for that we bought it, and Sporting KC delivered beyond any of our wildest dreams, and did so by overcoming deficits in each playoff round. I don’t know how to make sense of the world I’m living in, but this is a dream from which I’m in no hurry to wake. I’m determined to savor this, because being a Kansas City native means you never know if the next championship will be next year or 30 years from now.
If you’d like to see KCGunner a) almost puke then, b) lose his mind, just click here
and then scroll down to the comment section.
Congratulations, Matt, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.