Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Jason Whitlock is my hero

How about that for a title?

He's one of my biggest influences. From ages 8-24, I read every single Jason Whitlock article. From Dr. B.A. Homer to Jeff George to King Carl, I read every single word. And I loved it. I didn't agree with everything, but his prose and style was (and still is) amazing.

Jason Whitlock got a lot of grief from Kansas City Star readers. I'm not trying to imply anything about the Kansas City demographic, but I'm pretty sure Whitlock made people uneasy because he was opinionated, brash and black. To some people he had an agenda. What that agenda was, I'm not sure. But I'm pretty sure he was one of the first media members to spearhead the "Fire Carl Peterson" movement. He was the first to question the Buddy Bell the press conference announcing the hiring of Buddy Bell. He was the first to call for Allard Baird to be fired. He sees right through the NCAA and sees a corporation just as corrupt as Fannie Mae and Goldman Sachs. He saw right through Larry Johnson and saw an immature punk with serious psychological and anger issues. He exposed people in the right way. He is intelligent, savvy, smooth and most importantly, he brought KC to the forefront in national sports journalism.

Pardon the Interruption, Around the Horn, The Sports Reporters, Fox Sports, all featured Whitlock for long periods of time. You don't get to that point unless you're damn good. ESPN is the NFL of sports journalism, reserved for the top .01% of journalists in the world (although it may not seem like it when Chris Broussard or Joe Schad come on).

He is a big time player in a small market. KC had been a backwards thinking town up until a few years ago, Whitlock brought some panache and style to the town. When he wrote, people read. People read and they talked about it. "Did you see what Whitlock wrote today?" How many times have you heard that in your life?

That's what a great journalist does. They inspire discussion, debate, controversy and entertain. Jason did all of those things and was undeservedly criticized for it. To me, it seemed people often confused Jason Whitlock: the journalist, with Jason Whitlock: the person. Jason Whitlock the person may be a diva, primadonna or whatever. But Jason Whitlock the journalist is a man who is an equality rights activist. Whether for immigrants, homosexuals or those who are victims of prejudice.

Just like people are able to seperate Kanye West: the man, from Kanye West: the rapper, you must do the same with Whitlock. Kanye: the man, is an arrogant moron who thinks he is the second coming of John the Baptist, while Kanye: the rapper is perhaps the greatest lyricist of our generation. You have to seperate the two in order to see where I'm coming from

I have never met Jason Whitlock. I read his column for 16 years. His work has influenced me in so many ways. He and Joe Posnanski taught me how to captivate (or at least try to) readers. Draw the reader in with shock value, and trick them into reading a great story. Sure, some people couldn't seperate the shock value from the meat and potatoes of the actual column. But then again, some people don't have the capacity to seperate opinion from journalism.

I will miss Jason Whitlock.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Yankee "fans" will never be better than us

Big credit to Travis Pflanz of One Royal Way* for giving me the motivation to write this post.

*By the way, if you haven't stopped by One Royal Way, it's phenomenal. He's a good writer and the site is really well designed. Hope to have him help me redesign my blog.

We're used to it. Whether it's the Twins, Cardinals, Red Sox or White Sox, Kauffman Stadium is a hot spot for opposing fans to flock to when their teams are in town. I can't blame them. The tickets are the cheapest in baseball. There's usually no problem getting a hold of some good seats outside of Opening Day. Kansas City is accessible from every major Midwest city within a few hours drive. There are fans of every team everywhere. The Twins, Cards and both Sox are teams that have earned my respect throughout the years.

The Twins are a model franchise for small market teams like the Royals (even though I would hardly consider Minneapolis/St. Paul "small market"). The Cardinals are a franchise with fantastic history and passionate fans. Although they may be cocky and arrogant, they usually have regional ties to St. Louis and have been lifelong fans. The Red Sox have become a "trendy" team in the last decade, but ask most fans at a Royals/Red Sox series and it's likely that they're actually from New England and will tell you exactly where they were when the Sox won it all in 2004. White Sox fans are as loyal as they come. The second team in the Second City. I hate the White Sox players, but have a large amount of respect for anyone who sticks by a franchise like the White Sox, who are continuously spat on by Cubs' fans for being trashy and poor.

Being a fan of most sports teams isn't easy. I'm a prime example. Lifelong Kansas City Royals, Chiefs and Missouri Tigers fan. Ask anyone born after 1985 and they'll tell you why. Hell, ask anyone born after 1970 and they'll show you why. KC is littered with the memories of Lin Elliot, Steve Bono, Tyus Edney, John Elway, Chris Chambliss, 5th downs and kicked footballs for game tying touchdowns.

My sports life hasn't been easy. I know why I stick by my teams though. They wear the banner of my city. Where I was born and raised. They wear the colors of my college where I had my finest moments. I am connected with these teams in a way that most fans are. They've given me my greatest memories and worst nightmares. I cried as Lin Elliot's wounded duck kick sailed left of the goalposts as time expired in 1995. I screamed for someone to just step in front of Tyus Edney in Boise. I feel the passion and love leaving my body with every dropped pop up and terrible free agent signing. But at least I feel something.

These Yankee "fans" don't feel anything. Did they cry as the Yankees won their 26th World Championship? Did they thank God for blessing them with a fantastic franchise that has committed itself to winning during its entire existence? Did they think life itself wasn't going to go on after Luis Gonzalez dashed the hopes of New York City just weeks after 9/11?

No. They point and laugh as if to say: "Look at me! This is the good life! I'm so glad I chose to be a Yankee fan!"

I have all the respect for those who were born in New York City. It's a great city. Maybe the best in the world. My family has ties to New York. My great-great grandfathers came off the boat from Scotland and Ireland to start a new life in America. If you're born in New York, chances are you're a Yankee fan.

However, if you're born in Omaha, Little Rock or Paola, you don't have the luxury of a professional sports team in your city. You get to choose. People who cheer for the Yankees from cities like these probably have family members who grew up in New York or just wanted to take the easy way and cheer for a winner. But there are people from Kansas City, born and raised, who are Yankee fans. I'm sorry, you're a poser. You're not from New York. That youth group trip you took to NYC in 1996 doesn't count either. I know you're a huge Alicia Keys fan and INSIST on blasting "LETS HEAR IT FOR NEW YOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRK" every time you take your '97 Chevy Blazer out to cruise Zona Rosa for chicks, but come on, you're not fooling anybody. It's easy to root for the Yankees because they win. In all likelihood, they've probably never been to New York City, or even the East Coast for that matter. But they see Eminem and LeBron James wearing Yankee hats and think that being a Yankees fan is cool.

Let me tell you something, being a fan of a sports team isn't supposed to be cool. It's supposed to be intense, visceral, passionate, loving, a roller coaster of emotion. Being a Yankee fan isn't like that to these people. It's the easy way out. The effort-free version of being a sports fan. If being a sports fan was a video game, the difficulty would go as such:

Easy- Yankees
Medium- Braves
Hard- Indians
Batshit crazy insane difficult- Royals

I didn't choose to become a Royals fan. I was born into it. But I choose to stick by the team. I choose to be loyal. Am I a better person for it? Probably not. But am I a better sports fan for doing it? Absolutely.

Because when the Royals do raise that trophy, I won't be pointing and laughing, begging for the world to notice how much better than everyone I am. I'll be right next to you. Soaked in beer and tears, hugging complete strangers. Knowing that choosing to stay loyal was the right choice.