DON'T KILL THE MELLINGER

Twitter Tuesday: Talking Sporting championship, Chiefs, MU, Royals

Updated: 2013-12-10T15:24:45Z

By SAM MELLINGER

The Kansas City Star

We’ll get into this a little more here below, as you’ll see, but right here at the top I want to say that we shouldn’t waste too much time trying to decide What Sporting’s Championship Means.

Because there is no answer.

This is the kind of topic that might make for an easy segment on the radio, or a decent way to kill some time with your buddies over beers, but really, there is no answer. I’m choosing my words here deliberately, too. I am not saying there is no good answer, or no easy answer.

I’m saying there is no answer.

What it means to you won’t be the same thing that it means to me or my best friend or your best friend or your best friend’s dry cleaner.

Also, the topic is a bit pointless. By now, most have chosen sides. You either get it or you don’t. You either love the continuous action and quick games and build-up to the defining moments, or you don’t. You either live with 0-0 ties and an awkward playoff format and a season that takes WAY too long and is broken up by WAY too many other events, or you make fun of all that.

Mostly, I hope both sides abide the advice here, but if that’s not possible, I hope I don’t have to sit through any arguments about whether soccer is the greatest sport in the world or a giant waste of time and halftime orange slices.

I happen to like the sport, and detest both the sport’s truthers and haters with equal levels of passion.

This week’s eating recommendation is the pepperoni and sausage at Johnny Jo’s, and the reading recommendation is Steve Fishman on Alex Rodriguez.

As always, thanks for your help and for reading.

Well, no. At least not that I know about. Which is why I wrote this.

Now, to be fair, Sporting has it easier than a lot of other franchises. If we’re just comparing here locally, Sporting has a smaller fan base than the Royals or Chiefs, which means fewer people to reach out to. That helps. The mayor of a small town can know the local banker’s favorite breakfast. Sporting also has a much more defined fan base than most pro franchises. That means the same message, delivered in the same way, will reach and resonate with a much higher percentage of their fan base.

Those are all real factors.

So is this: Sporting makes it a higher priority.

Fan interaction, fan empowerment, however you want to say it. Sporting just tries harder to reach people, to win over their hearts and minds and wallets.

The feedback on that column was eye-opening, by the way. I actually think the Chiefs have gotten better in this area in recent years, but Sporting is so far out ahead here it’s ridiculous.

My inbox filled up with people telling stories of being unable to reach a human being with the Chiefs or Royals except when it’s time to buy tickets. One man told me about a good experience, actually, an usher at Kauffman Stadium being particularly helpful. He wanted to pass along a compliment, but kept getting transferred and told he had the wrong department, long enough that his compliment turned into a complaint about how long it was taking.

He couldn’t find the right place for the complaint, either.

I heard about a local high school that played for a state football championship this fall, trying to get someone with the Chiefs — anyone with the Chiefs, really — to send a quick good luck video message. Three different people told him very politely that this would be impossible, no way, no how, not in the middle of the season. The high school did the video — and got a personalized message from 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

The trick about these grassroots fan relations — teams call it Customer Relations Management, or CRM — is that it takes diligence. You have to be willing to put in the sweat and focus and consistency, doing a thousand things that have nothing to do with immediately selling a ticket or making a dollar.

Look, the Royals and Chiefs do a lot of good things. Clark Hunt regularly sends messages to fans in hospitals. The Royals’ Buck O’Neil Legacy seat continues to honor and inspire good deeds all over the city. Writing this, I’m sure I’ll hear about a lot of great things both teams do that are behind the scenes. Both teams give an honest effort.

They just don’t do it nearly as well as Sporting.

Oh, that wasn’t a season-changer. That was the Chiefs finding the good fortune of playing a quitting, imploding, hot mess of a team. That was the Chiefs playing well, sure, but also doing it against a team that just didn’t care all that much about football.

That was the Chiefs getting a lead, and then protecting it. That was Reid recognizing that when one team is trying and the other isn’t, it creates an especially big mismatch at the line of scrimmage, so why not take advantage and run it down their apathetic throats?

Good game plan.

This whole Beltran thing took off faster than it should’ve, people putting more hope and expectation into it than it deserved. Beltran visited a bunch of cities, not just the Royals, and the Yankees were always the favorite. The Royals were always a longshot.

The best realistic scenario for the Royals would’ve been to sign Beltran, then find a good trade partner and turn Billy Butler into a piece or two that fits (like a second baseman).

That would’ve given the Royals a lot of lineup flexibility, without Butler tying up the DH spot, and improved the rest of the team with whatever Butler brought back in a trade. It would’ve made the Royals a better team, and improved their chances in a much-anticipated and important season.

But the Royals can’t make a free agent sign with them.

If you eat lunch at Wendy’s today, who should McDonald’s blame?

Meh. It’s fine.

The fact that K-State lost as much as it did from last year’s Fiesta Bowl team and then the next year wins enough games for a respectable, mid-level bowl game is a sign about the consistency of the program under Bill Snyder 2.0.

If I was a K-State fan, I’d be happy with the progress from the beginning of the year.

And if I was the kind of K-State fan who traveled for bowl games, I’d actually be a bit bummed that they didn’t fall to the Holiday Bowl. Phoenix is OK — climb Camelback Mountain, if you’re into that sort of thing — but K-State was there last year and San Diego is awesome.

It’s a good win, an important one when everyone looks back on the season, but neither team played well. And this looks like it might be a long, agonizing season for K-State.

They’ve got a lot of work to do.

I was shocked that Auburn did that. I thought Mizzou would win that game, and my reasons mostly centered around the defense. I figured the Tigers would score enough points, and that they had the better defense, so I expected them to win a close game.

What happened was incredible.

MU was gashed, particularly at the line of scrimmage, both with scheme and muscle. Gary Pinkel, who was masterful this season, had no answers.

But your question implies that a massive change is needed. Your question, actually, sounds a lot like what we heard after last season, when MU didn’t even make a bowl game.

I don’t know. Maybe that’s true, that MU has to make fundamental changes to "take the next step."

I also think it might be true that they went 11-2, and just got outplayed by a team that proved it is both lucky and good.

Silly Matt. The Wizards won the MLS Cup in 2000, too. The Shuttlecocks predate Sporting/Wizards/Wiz, meaning the rotten luck and monsters-around-every-corner thing is applying only to the Royals and Chiefs.

The Shuttlecock Committee has had an interesting year, off its game a bit, but they also point out that Peyton Manning chose to resurrect a brilliant career in the AFC West, and that James Shields will be a free agent after next season and that Wil Myers is probably going to win like 14 MVP awards.

It was a heck of a night. The stadium was predictably lively, and the weather — after the game, Jimmy Nielsen said he didn’t think the league would play a regular season game in those conditions — made memories.

It was a very cool thing to see in person, and I was happy to be there. If you’re asking me, personally, I’ve been really lucky to see a lot of amazing events. The best event I’ve ever seen in person was the 100 meters in London last year, and that’s going to be tough to beat. After that, I probably think of these things differently than you might expect. I won’t forget the Lin Elliott game, or Brian McRae charging the Rangers’ dugout or drinking Old Styles with my friends in the Wrigley Field bleachers or a thousand other things.

Super Bowls and Final Fours and major games like that are great, but when you’re working on assignment, you tend to be thinking almost entirely about your assignment. It’s not that you don’t love being there, it’s just different. I’ve seen a lot of great things, but the best events are when you can go a fan., with your friends

But as far as an impact around Kansas City … I know I’m going to hear from some soccer snobs about this, but there are a lot of people around town who just don’t care and who just won’t care.

A championship is a big deal, and I think it gives Sporting some bona fides it needed to sort of validate this re-branding.

But I’m not sure they converted a huge number of people the other night as much as they deepened a bond with those who already love them.

I mean this with all my heart: I respect Bob Dutton as much as anyone in this business. I, the paper, and Royals fans will miss Bob’s insight, work ethic, perspective and a thousand other qualities. He personifies what I think a good sports department should try to be.

And I know you wanted a joke here. Sorry.

Well, $45 million is a lot of money and three years is a long time for a 36-year-old outfielder^. You never know when or how much or how quickly aging athletes with diminish, only that that they will diminish.

^ He turns 37 in April.

So keep reading that paragraph, over and over.

Because it would’ve been a great move, assuming they could’ve moved Butler for the right parts.

Well, at the risk of going all Andy-Reid-taking-his-hat-off-to-Nelson-Mandela here, first make sure he’s appreciated.

Then feed him a Gates’ short end, Joe’s fries, Jack Stack cheesy corn, Stroud’s rolls, Tank 7 (Boulevard isn’t going Belgian until the end of the month), and something from Murray’s. Then make fun of St. Louis, and you should be all set.

Snow games are the best. The best. I understand why coaches and players don’t like the idea of the most important game of the season (the most important game in many of their lives) being potentially affected by bad weather, so I hope those coaches and players understand why a lot of us don’t give a damn about that.

They are entertainment, and football in the snow is entertaining.

Bring on more of it.

I don’t know, but at what point did the human experience just become a vehicle for Will Ferrell to hype Anchorman II? My goodness. He’s doing newscasts, radio shows, magazine shoots, all of it character and I can’t help but think it’s counterproductive.

Does anyone who’s interested not know about the movie?

And at what point are people going to decide not to watch the movie because they basically heard it on the radio?

And if the movie’s really good, is all of this necessary?

But, anyway, Wolf of Wall Street looks good but I’m starting to really dislike DiCaprio for some reason. So go see Anchorman.

Yeah, the Colts look messy. Playoff games the road are always tricky — unless, over the last 20 years, you’re doing it against the Chiefs — but if we’re just talking about football then you’ll probably feel OK about the Chiefs playing the Colts.

It really is a fairly rare thing, right? Three more weeks in the season and we are fairly certain who the Chiefs will play in the first round of the playoffs, and where — and they play against each in the regular season, next week.

The Colts have lost three of their last five, giving up 120 points in those three losses. We’ll know more about how the football matchups go after next week, obviously, but the Chiefs would have to like that matchup.

My guess is that the playoff line would be pick-em or very small either way, but it would be a really tough environment.

Depends how wide we can cast our net here. Do the colleges count? Because if so, KU has basketball national championships, Mizzou has the Border War win in 2007 and other moments, and K-State has a bunch of milemarkers under Bill Snyder.

And do individual stars count? Because Tom Watson was Kansas City’s third franchise for a while. Maurice Greene was The World’s Fastest Man.

If we’re just talking pro teams, the Chiefs have a Super Bowl, the Royals a World Series. We’ve seen All-Star games, George Brett’s push at .400, Derrick Thomas’ seven sacks, flashes of the old Joe Montana, Priest Holmes’ brilliance, Bo Jackson’s otherworldly gifts, The Young Carlos Beltran, and the evolution of Jamaal Charles. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. The Wizards won the MLS Cup in 2000, though Saturday’s championship is a bigger deal for a million reasons.

So, I don’t know. If we’re just talking pro teams, and city-wide impact, I’m guessing it’s in or on the fringes of the top 10.

OK, that’s not bad.

Making the SEC championship game in your second year in the league is a heck of an accomplishment. I know there were fans at other SEC schools who would’ve preferred Mizzou struggle a little longer, pay some more dues, like some frat pledge.

But what it does is simply speed up the bigger college football world’s understanding that Mizzou has a crap-ton of things going for it, and will live a good-not-great sort of SEC life, having peaks like a league championship game broken up by valleys like missing a bowl game, and most seasons being around 8-4 or 9-3.

I believe this is why Relentless Mocking exists.

As much as they try to downplay it publicly, the last three weeks got to them. How could it not? This was the best defense in the league, at one point, and then spent three weeks giving up points like the Arizona Rattlers^.

^ Do old Arena Football League references work here?

A road game in Oakland will be a bigger test, the home game the next week against the Colts a little bigger and, if it still means anything for playoff seeding, the regular season finale against the Chargers the best remaining gauge.

My guess is that we see the Chiefs as having a very good defense, one of the best five or so in the league, but not the monster it looked like early.

You asked about the secondary, specifically, and so much of this depends on whether Marcus Cooper is a pumpkin.

I’m still more optimistic than, it seems, a lot of Chiefs fans.

You know, when the game happened in October, people spent so much time talking about how the Chiefs hadn’t beat the Raiders at home since 2006 — long enough that Aaron Brooks quarterbacked that game for Oakland, and that Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Dustin Colquitt are the only Chiefs still around — they didn’t spend much time talking about how the Raiders have lost eight of their last 10 at home to the Raiders.

My prediction: many Raiders fans will scream many curse words at many Chiefs players, some of whom will curse back, and I’ll probably end up mentioning that the stadium there has the distinction of being the worst in both the NFL and major league baseball.

It was quite pleasant, and you keep your dirty hands off my job, Tyler.

Irrepressible optimism, the counter to the we-come-by-our-skepticism-honestly stuff.

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