I always enjoy my exchanges with Jason Whitlock, a colleague with the Kansas City Star. We have chatted during press conferences, during games, at restaurants, and once while jogging on adjacent treadmills in a hotel fitness center. I also have a particular fondness for Kansas City: As a first-year NBA beat writer in 1981, my first road trip was covering the former San Diego Clippers against the former Kansas City Kings in Kemper Arena. The late Cotton Fitzimmons was the Kings' coach. After the game - and before reporters could ask a question - the feisty Cotton filled up the notebook. I can't say the same about the building. The place was dark and half-empty. The fans I interacted with were passionate about the Chiefs and seemed to care a lot about the Royals.
Some things haven't changed. When I visited Kansas City again in 2005 to write about the mayor's campaign for a downtown arena (to read story, click here), I learned that the community still adores the Chiefs, has become disillusioned with the chronically lousy Royals, is just as interested in Big 12 basketball, and has become swept up by the NASCAR craze.
So, when I heard that Jason had written a column suggesting the Kings relocate to the new downtown arena, I thought, okay, why not? And then I remembered why the franchise left in the first place - mainly because Kansas City was too small a market to support a third professional franchise. "Cotton actually used to say the Kings were the fourth team in town," related Kings player personnel director Jerry Reynolds, who was coaching college ball in the area when Gregg Lukenbill brought the franchise to Sacramento in 1985. "He said it was the Chiefs, the Royals, college basketball, and Tom Watson, who was at the height of his career. Don't get me wrong. Kansas City is a great sports town. It's just a small market (31st in Nielsen rankings), smaller than Sacramento (20th)."
Besides. It wasn't like anyone cared that much even when the Kings were good. When they won the Midwest Division title in 1979, for instance, they ranked 10th in attendance. Of 22 teams.
Let's get not greedy, folks. This is the time to share the wealth. Kansas City has NFL and Major League Baseball franchises, major college basketball teams and tournaments, NASCAR events and a fabulous Negro Baseball Leagues museum. And what does Sactown have? The Kings ... the Kings ... the Kings ... the Kings ...