Sometimes you can be right for the wrong reasons, and wrong for the right reasons, both at the same time.
Democrats and the news media jumped all over President Donald Trump this past Sunday for making still another geographical blunder — he’s made a bunch of ’em — by congratulating the Kansas City Chiefs, winners of Super Bowl LIV, as representing “the Great State of Kansas.”
Yes, it’s true, the Chiefs’ home field is Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MISSOURI (not Kansas), across the state line from Kansas City , KS.
But Trump was right that the Chiefs represent the NFL team’s single most-homogenous fan base in Kansas, while ignoring (wrong!) that an even larger chunk of fans lived to the east, in Missouri. And he was wrong for singling out Kansas when Missouri should have been included, but right that Kansas and its sports-starved population need some special love.
For instance, what does Trump’s word “represent”mean? Is it just the immediate legal geography surrounding the winner? OK, that’s K.C.M.O., as the natives say. But what about the broader population, representing ALL the populations likely to be Chief fans, which would include not only K.C.K. but also THE ENTIRE STATE OF KANSAS, plus western Missouri, southern Iowa, southeastern Nebraska, and northern Arkansas. There are real PEOPLE living in those locales — actually, millions. This is quintessential “flyover country” for the rest of the USA.
The predictable retort from national Republicans defending Trump was that the New York Giants actually play in the Meadowlands, NJ, across a lot of water from the Empire State. Would anyone congratulate the NFL Giants for winning the Super Bowl as representing the “Great State of New Jersey”?
Enough already. Here is what nobody is noticing — before the early 1950s, these people in the Midwest/Plains had no place to go if they wanted to feel engaged with the “Big Four” of professional sports (baseball/football/basketball/hockey), other than MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals.
But in 1955 the NBA’s Hawks moved from Milwaukee to St. Louis (remember Bob Pettit?), on the eastern side of the State of Missouri. In 1960 the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals did the same (the latter split for Atlanta in 1968). In 1963, the Dallas Texans of the old American Football League (remember that upstart?) also moved to Missouri, but to Kansas City (MO), renaming themselves the Chiefs, thus setting up an east-west rivalry across the state.
In 1971, the NBA’s Cincinnati Royals moved to Kansas City-Omaha (remember Tiny Archibald?), renaming themselves the Kings (Omaha was dropped in 1975), although they left for Sacramento, California, in 1985, never to return. For that matter, the NFL’s Cardinals deserted St. Louis in 1988 for Arizona, although St. Louis got another NFL franchise, the Rams in 1995. Remember “The Greatest Show on Turf” with Kurt Warner, winners of the Super Bowl two decades ago? Yes, the Rams forsook St. Louis in 2016, returning to their roots in Los Angeles. Along the way, however, St. Louis in the 1960s got a National Hockey League expansion franchise, the Blues, who are still in the Gateway City and are current holders of the Stanley Cup. And about the same time MLB brought baseball to KC with the Royals.
So, who are you going to root for? In Pennsylvania, is it the Philadelphia Phillies/Eagles/Flyers/76ers? Or is it the Pittsburgh Pirates/Steelers/Penguins? In Missouri, it’s the same thing — is it Cardinals/Blues and all the franchises in between? Or is it the Royals/Chiefs?
Of all these teams, the one with the longest unbroken tenure in the KC/MO-KC/KS metropolitan area is the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.
Yes. Missouri is a bigger population state than Kansas, but Missouri is DIVIDED geographically between its favorite sports teams, many of which have come and gone. Meanwhile, Kansas is UNITED behind KC, and its people have a number of surrounding states on THEIR side, more than St. Louis has with only sparsely-populated southwestern Illinois across the Mississippi River.