When I used to teach at the Florida State University, I would occasionally — okay, more than occasionally — make fun of my home state of Alabama. And, I would always follow it up with a simple disclaimer: “It’s okay, I’m from there. I can make fun of Alabama.”
In many ways, I feel that Jeff Passan is doing the same thing with Kansas City. In his article following MLB’s All-Star Game, Passan takes several shots at his “hometown” for their excessive booing of the New York Yankees’ Robinson Cano. From the Home Run Derby to the actual “game” itself, KC fans let out a hearty Bronx cheer for Cano. And Passan took them to task for it.
But if fans attending the All-Star game were excessive, then so was Passan in his out-of-the-way bashing of Kansas City. Reminders of KC’s title drought — would he do the same to Cleveland? — and that the “best” players have no interest in playing in western Missouri litter Passan’s article. All that was lacking was a reference to a line in Mel Brooks’ movie Blazing Saddles. Or, at least a link.
Nevertheless, Passan seems to miss the point on a couple of levels. First, all the loveliness in the world is not going to suddenly draw the best players to Kansas City. Players are not flocking to Kansas City or Minneapolis or even St. Petersburg. Why?
Money. Or lack thereof. KC will be fortunate to hold on to its young talent. The best players are going to go to where the money is located. Minnesota thrived and Tampa Bay is thriving because of young (and relatively cheap) talent and good systems. But they cannot compete long-term. Think about it. People like to point out how brutal the New York media can be if you fail to produce. Yet, players still go there. $$$$$$! And money translates to (at least) championship contention.
Ergo, Passan misses the point here. Booing did not change anything. Players were not going to Kansas City even before the All-Star Game. What makes Passan think they were suddenly going to want to go there afterwards (sans booing).
As for the lack of championships, purchasing power (or lack thereof) can partially explain that…along with only two professional teams in KC (at least at the “major” level). Okay, they have three, if you include the
Kansas City Wizards Sporting Kansas City. And hey, Kansas City’s MLS team has the most recent championship for the city…um, metropolitan area.
Anyway, Passan misses the bigger picture. And, it is actually one that Passan half-assed admitted to…that KC fans had the right to boo. In fact, they were bestowed that right when Cano reneged on his earlier statement to include a Royal in the Home Run Derby.
Sure, to be fair, Cano would have had a difficult time replacing Jose Bautista or Prince Fielder. Mark Trumbo, though, could have been replaced. Outside of Los Angeles, are fans really clamoring to see Trumbo hit? Yeah, I know…outside of Kansas City, are fans really clamoring to see Billy Butler hit? Especially someone who has never hit more than 21 homers in a season.
But, then again, if Trumbo and Butler are basically interchangeable (in the eyes of casual baseball fans), then why not give Butler the nod? He probably could have hit more than Cano did. And it gives the hometown fans — fans who suffer so much, according to Passan — something to genuinely cheer for during Monday night’s festivities. Especially since KC had only one representative.
But no. Cano backed out. And instead of taking Cano to task over his flip-flopping (well, to be fair, Passan did state that Cano was “stupid” for insinuating he’d take a Royal), Passan lays into Kansas City.
But KC did nothing more than what any other collection of fans in any other sport would have done, given the situation. Perhaps this would not have happened in New York has a Yankee (or next year, a Met) been left out of the home run derby after a promise to include one was made. But, that is because New York does not give a shit. Beyond that, Royal fans were being loyal to their player…and booed like they are supposed to do.
Yet, for this, they were called “classless” and “jerks.” Where are these labels when this is done simply for an opposing team — not because that team anally raped the mothers of the other team while putting sugar in the home players’ gas tanks. No…they are booing……because they are the opposing team. In other words, they are booing for no reason! And yet…no outcry.
Or what about when Jets fans boo whatever player is drafted during the NFL Draft? It is a “ritual.” But they are not “jerks”??
Yet, Royal fans had a legitimate reason to boo. Not because Cano is Yankee; but because he reneged on a statement that he’d include a hometown boy in the Home Run Derby. Is it a petty reason? Perhaps. Was it excessive? Maybe. But they earned that right.
Look, in general I am no fan of booing. I do not think it accomplishes anything. But if KC fans want to boo, then so be it. Let it out. If Passan wants to claim it is frustration over years of ineptitude, then so be it. But, had Cano actually chosen Butler, then there would have been no boos at all.
The only thing that Royal fans did wrong was attempt to “justify” their actions in the media and talk radio. That they had to defend themselves from the silly reaction from the national media (i.e., that it was “classless” when the same media does not criticize all fans for booing) was sad to begin with. But those fans did not need to defend themselves anyway. But, by doing so, it is almost as though they do think it is wrong…but need to explain themselves. Kind of like having to explain the punchline to a joke…if you have to do that, then the joke is not funny.
So, if KC fans are having to defend themselves, then maybe they should not have booed in the first place. Ah…but they earned that right to do so. They were essentially taken on a guilt-trip by people like Passan and made to believe that they had no business booing “such a fine player” like Cano. That the Royals fans had to deal with the “backlash” (as Passan put it) was ridiculous. So, they naturally were left to defend actions that they initially felt were within their bundle of rights. And yet, in the end, they were the ones left ridiculed.
In other words, a vicious circle was created by people like Passan, who want to “shame” Royal fans for doing the very same thing that others do for no reason whatsoever. By shaming them into believing that they were wrong, Kansas Citians felt obligated to defend themselves. And, by extension, probably led to the increased intensity of booing during the “game” itself. Take that, media!
So, to Passan and others that criticized Kansas City fans for giving Cano the ol’ Bronx Cheer…I say…