Bad-boy Royals don’t exactly fit our city’s vaunted image (or do they?)

Thursday night’s bench-clearing brawl between the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox appears to undermine Kansas City’s friendly reputation. But many say there’s more to Kansas City than its niceness.
Thursday night’s bench-clearing brawl between the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox appears to undermine Kansas City’s friendly reputation. But many say there’s more to Kansas City than its niceness. The Associated Press

These 2015 Royals are so not like us.

At least not the good-natured, friendly us we imagine ourselves.

That’s the us that fashions Kansas City as the capital of Midwestern Nice. Polite and earnest, we’re a metro area full of honest, good-natured folks who say please, thank you and happily give directions to strangers.

Such folks are not given to shouting F-bombs as the prelude to bench-clearing brawls on the south side of Chicago.

Myth or not, it’s also our reputation beyond the 816 and 913 area codes.

Just this week, Travel+Leisure magazine ranked Kansas City No. 4 on it’s Top 10 Friendly Cities list, and that was not some one-off accolade.

Men’s Health had us at No. 6 on its Friendliest Cities list last fall, and on it goes, survey after survey, year after year.

And as we all know, the residents of friendly cities do not pick fights and roll in the dirt along the first-base line over some slight — the Thursday night incident that had the city talking Friday.

“In a city where Midwest warmth meets Southern soul, you know you’re going to have a good time,” the website dreamplango.com says in explaining why KC ranked second to New Orleans on that site’s friendly city list.

So renowned are Kansas Citians for their good manners, pleasant demeanor and generous natures that folks in the business of attracting tourists and conventioneers set aside their Midwestern modesty to drive home that point.

“From a marketing perspective we do tout our Midwestern hospitality,” says Toni Alexander at Visit KC, formerly the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association.

And yet our baseball team, of late, has been anything but hospitable, both to visitors at Kauffman Stadium and on the road.

The Royals and the Angels came close to blows at the Big A in Anaheim. There was ill will expressed in a most uncivilized manner when the A’s came to play at The K last weekend.

“A bunch of punks,” one critic called the Royals on Twitter after that bench-clearing brawl with the White Sox the other night in Chicago.

Or, as a headline in USA Today Sports put it: “It’s time for Ventura, Royals to lose the attitude,” referring to the pitcher at the heart of several dustups.

Yet rather than express embarrassment, some Royals fans proudly proclaimed their team to be “the bad boys of baseball.”

Common to both those negative and positive and sentiments is the belief that about all that separates this year’s Kansas City Royals from an NHL team is that KC ballplayers don’t strap on skates before throwing punches.

“The Royals are trying to win the Stanley Cup,” former Johnson County parks board member Vickie Truitt said. “Maybe a little anger management is needed. I want baseball, not hockey.”

Whether any of that reflects on Kansas City’s image as a city is hard to gauge.

Some who responded to the same Facebook survey Truitt wrote in on believe it could be hurtful.

“I want them to play with good sportsmanship which is what I taught my kids,” said Royals fan Mary Ca Ralstin. “It reflected well on the city when they won last year and seemed to be a team of good sports.”

The Royals’ current escapades on the field, she said, “will eventually reflect on the city, I think.”

But then again, New York City’s image hasn’t suffered from the vitriol many outsiders feel toward its sports teams.

“It has nothing to do with your city,” Minnesota Twins (and also Royals) fan John Fey of Omaha said in response to The Star’s Facebook survey. “The Yankees s--k, by the way.”

Besides, says Royals broadcaster Rex Hudler, Kansas City has nothing to be ashamed about.

When he arrived here three years ago, he thought the team was “a little soft,” Hudler said by phone Friday ahead of that night’s second matchup with the White Sox.

Now that the core of the team is older and the organization is defending its American League title, players’ willingness to settle scores on the field and defend their honor reminds Hudler of that Tom Petty song.

“They won’t back down,” he said. “The fans should be proud of who these young men are...Anyone who thinks they are hoodlums and bullies, they can talk. I’m loving it.”

All the focus on the proprieties that go along with Kansas City nice ignores the fact that this city was once better known for its swagger.

Kansas City’s pride wasn’t rooted in its plain-vanilla sweetness but in its ambition and can-do attitude as epitomized in Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Kansas City Spirit.”

Another of Kansas City’s sports franchises revel in that spirit with its in-your-face competitive moxie.

Brawls are few and far between, not that angry feelings aren’t good for a red card ejection on occasion.

But before each match at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., the public address announcer welcomes one and all to “the Blue Hell,” which is not exactly the politest or friendliest of greetings.

Like the Royals, that franchise was once counted out and stands up for itself on the field.

“We have the same chip on our shoulder,” Sporting KC spokesman Rob Thomson said.

To reach Mike Hendricks, call 816-234-4738, or send email to mhendricks@kcstar.com.

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