Vahe Gregorian

How KC Mayor Quinton Lucas’ childhood ‘sports journal’ relates to his new job

Gazing out from the 30th-floor observation deck of City Hall, Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas peered south and west toward the Sprint Center and Power & Light District.

He smiled at the thought of the Royals’ 2015 World Series parade winding down Grand Boulevard.

Then, in his mind’s eye, he superimposed over that route a long-awaited next such celebration for the Chiefs — one of the loves of his life.

The team is prominently represented in his office one floor down, with a numbered jersey emblematic of the 55th mayor of the city, a ticketholder through last season who has been known to run to Arrowhead Stadium. Lucas remains “very color sensitive about the pen choice” for the notes he keeps about the Chiefs, is apt to profusely Tweet about the team and could be expected to eat his Mahomes Magic Crunch, again, on Sunday morning before the team’s home opener against Baltimore.

Meanwhile, he’ll be speaking about them every Monday morning during Chiefs season with Bob Fescoe on 610 Sports Radio, and each Chiefs Friday in “Mayor Q’s Two-Minute Drill” on The Morning Grind With Shay and Shyne on KPRS (103.3 FM).

Last week on KPRS, he predicted the Chiefs would beat Oakland 34-16 — slightly off but, indeed, the very margin of victory they enjoyed in a 28-10 victory.

Proof’s in the pages

Maybe such apparent insight shouldn’t be a surprise coming from someone who has obsessed over the Chiefs for years and spent part of his youth chronicling and critiquing them in “The Quinton Lucas Sports Journal” he faithfully kept while attending Barstow Middle School.

Lucas’ fascination with the Chiefs, and the sports landscape extending from Kansas City to the Olympics in Atlanta and Nagano, was well-encapsulated in the motto that adorned the cover of that 120-page Stuart Hall themebook: “Sports. They’re good for you!!!”

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“I was always very interested in how sports related to culture and society,” he said. “From an early point, I was seeing that in some way (sports) had an impact beyond just how they performed on Sunday.”

Within the journal is everything from game summaries in elegant cursive with certain recurring themes (lamenting Chiefs playoff losses, for instance) to a somewhat-ahead-of-its-time and meticulously sourced essay on the danger of concussions (originally written for his seventh-grade science class) and astute observations about the trickle-down impact of cable-rights fees.

Then there’s a “SPECIAL PROJECT” about Kansas City’s sports facilities that turns out to be rather foreshadowing.

“The Truman Sports complex has taught us (to) do something right and it’ll (sic) payoff,” he wrote in 1997, adding that it would only cost a few more million dollars to add seats to Kemper so “why spend 150 million on a new downtown arena(?)”

About that downtown ballpark ...

That practical line of thought remains relevant for the 35-year-old Lucas, who was sworn in last month after serving as a city councilman since 2015.

Consider his corresponding view today on the matter of a downtown baseball stadium, a renewed point of discussion in the wake of the impending sale of the Royals to John Sherman and the Kauffman Stadium lease expiring in 2031.

Toward the east and southeast from the rooftop Wednesday, Lucas gestured at potential future sites that he believes could further invigorate downtown and rather favors personally. It’s a prospect he also could envision looking northward to the Missouri River.

As he spoke, though, Lucas was careful to promptly clarify that he doesn’t “know anything special” and that “non-mayor me, actual Quinton sports-fan me,” sees this through a different filter than the man who must account for all he can survey from up here.

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That the city has many more crucial needs to pay for is an ever-looming notion, punctuated by sirens blaring below at one point.

“We don’t have the money” for a downtown stadium, he said, echoing what he more colorfully told The Star’s editorial board before the election: “We need a new downtown baseball stadium like I need a new Maserati. It’d be cool to have, but I don’t have the money.”

He conveyed a similar point about broader urgency when he was later asked about how he sees his role in the city’s aspirations to host 2026 World Cup matches: to aid the bid committee that includes Chiefs’ chairman Clark Hunt and Sporting KC principal owner Cliff Illig and help support the brand of soccer in Kansas City.

But especially to bolster the brand of Kansas City itself.

“I think my biggest role is to make Kansas City the safest place it can be, to make sure we’re addressing those long-term transportation issues, like the … zero-fare transit that I’ve been talking about,” he said. “That’s the sort of thing that I want to create in terms of supporting World Cup buzz. While it’s cool to have a jersey on me or something like that, I think, frankly, I can do more making sure the city works.”

Steeped in sports

That doesn’t mean that sports aren’t on his mind and in his soul … as ever for a man who found solace, inspiration and even identity through fandom during an adolescence that included times of homelessness — in some ways similar to the man currently actually wearing No. 55 for the Chiefs, Frank Clark.

Reflected in the emphasis of his journal, the Chiefs were a pivotal vehicle in the life of a child from the east side who grew up with a single mother and two sisters, moved frequently and wondered where he really fit in at Barstow.

It helped that he ran track and played soccer. But it’s the Chiefs he thinks about most as the way he found commonality and bridged the very different worlds he was straddling.

Whether he was in the Leawood home of a friend whose father was an orthopedic surgeon or a barber shop at 69th and Prospect, Lucas said, the Chiefs were “this uniting thing that, frankly, chilled everybody out.”

Along those lines, he recalled the refuge and respite he often found in the three-plus hours a week the Chiefs played — whether he was otherwise stranded in a wretched hotel or staying at the home of an “awful, somewhat abusive character” that his mother, Quincy Bennett, was with at the time.

“He was only happy during Chiefs games; it was actually the only time he and I really got along well,” he said. “This is not unique to me. I know it’s an experience for lots of people. And I was blessed because I know there are some male characters who get angry if their team loses; I never dealt with that necessarily.

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“But there was just this sort of … everybody was at peace, right?”

As he looks back now, this form of peace was fueled in part by a love for reading, part of the reason his oldest sister, Treina Griffin, told The Star’s Melinda Henneberger that he’s “been called ‘The Professor’ since he was 10 years old.”

His bookishness and yearning for learning also applied to the sports pages of The Star, which he found at school and devoured when he typically arrived very early so his mother could get downtown for work.

“For whatever reason, I wasn’t reading about the latest travails of Mayor (Emanuel) Cleaver and the city council of 1992 or 1993,” said Lucas, who also was partial to Sports Illustrated. “Instead, I was reading about Joe Montana coming to Kansas City.”

‘Never again!’

The catalyst for the journal, though, was his embarrassment among peers after proclaiming Buffalo would beat Dallas in the Super Bowl in 1993. When Buffalo got “demolished” (52-17), he felt ashamed at how wrong he was and vowed “I will never look like such an idiot again … I will make sure I know what I’m talking about with sports.”

The journal, which also is full of quips and clippings, became such a part of him during those years that Lucas wrote a farewell note to it as he graduated from middle school.

Perhaps in the spirit of dropping some Latin in the journal itself (“veni, vidi, vici,” he wrote of the Chiefs’ 35-17 win over Seattle in 1996), the eighth-grader turned to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in his goodbye.

“As Cassius once said, ‘Men at some times are masters of their fates; The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars, but of ourselves,’” wrote Lucas, who went on to attend Washington University in St. Louis and Cornell Law School.

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All his life, he added, “I hope to be around sports (because) when I’m in a poor mood reading the sports page or turning on the television to watch a game always helps.”

Still does, it turns out.

While he won’t run to Arrowhead, as he did on occasion as a councilman to give a nod to his constituents, Lucas anticipated tailgating as usual at the Chiefs’ home opener on Sunday.

Most likely, he’ll tweet some opinions about the game as he has the last few weeks — including awarding his “game ball” to Sammy Watkins in the opener at Jacksonville and Patrick Mahomes after the win at Oakland, calling out CBS for the apparent technical issue that led it to turn away from the Jacksonville game, and fretting like most Chiefs fans that there was “too much pressure on Mahomes” that day.

And, surely, he’ll keep thinking about the Chiefs winning a championship for the first time in 50 years even as he seeks to make the most of his own still-fresh title.

“If the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, it would be like, ‘Yeah, we won the Super Bowl!’” he said, smiling. “Whereas winning this Super Bowl (the mayor’s race), you’re just like, ‘OK, now I have to figure out a ton of stuff.’ ”

Sports, they’re good for you — Lucas still believes that. But he also knows that they’re also just part of the view as he overlooks Kansas City.

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Vahe Gregorian has been a sports columnist for The Kansas City Star since 2013 after 25 years at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He has covered a wide spectrum of sports, including 10 Olympics. Vahe was an English major at the University of Pennsylvania and earned his master’s degree at Mizzou.