Kansas City sports is reaching another crossroads. In my lifetime there have been two seismic shifts.
1973 and 1993.
And I believe 2013 will once again be a pivotal year. Let me explain.
By 1973, the Chiefs were entering the waning stages of greatness. Lenny the Cool was becoming Lenny the Elder. The switch in 1972 to the rock hard Arrowhead turf didn’t help preserve his body either. In short, the window was closing quickly and firmly. 1973 was the last winning season of the decade for the Chiefs and they fell into NFL obscurity before making a fluke playoff appearance in 1986.
They were not just bad, they were embarrassingly awful. One Sunday in the early eighties the Kansas City Comets drew a larger crowd than the Chiefs.
Meanwhile across the lot at Truman Sports Complex, the Royals made a late summer promotion in August of 1973. A guy named George Brett. He would become the face and attitude of a franchise that had been struggling for an identity since the expansion Royals landed in KC.
By 1976, the Royals were division winners, repeating in ’77, ’78, ’80, ’84 and the glorious summer of 1985. Kansas City was a baseball town. The Chiefs over this period were utterly forgettable, dead in the water, an afterthought.
But then the tide began to turn in 1989. Carl and Marty came to town and infused a sense of belief not seen since the early ’70s. They quickly backed it up by drafting what we would call a tweener today, Derrick Thomas. Those of us who were draftniks then will recall that Broderick Thomas from Nebraska was preferred by some in the media and scouting circles. This would mark the first and last great draft day decision of the Peterson Era.
Momentum built and with the acquisition of one Joe Montana in 1993, the Chiefs became NFL darlings and serious contenders. Neil and DT off the edges, Joe and Marcus on offense. It was perhaps the most interesting season in franchise history with the number of sub-plots and feel good stories.
Though it ended in the AFC Championship game in Buffalo, there was a newly rooted belief that the Chiefs had returned. Kansas City just might be a football town again.
And with the help of hindsight, we should have seen it coming. In September of 1993, just as the Chiefs were beginning that magical season, the most successful since Super Bowl 4, a slightly gimpy but still charismatic 3rd baseman hustled down the first base line before being called out and returning to the dugout for the last time as a Royal.
Coupling the Brett retirement with the cancellation of the 1994 World Series a year later and baseball in KC was irrevocably changed.
And so began the long dark age of baseball in KC.
But here we are almost 20 years later. As 2013 approaches, we could possibly, for the first time ever, have to make a choice.
Is KC a football town or a baseball town?
As Hosmer-mania has shown, the Royals have a chance to be really special by 2013. No team in baseball is better positioned to make a sustained run at titles if you believe all the minor league scouts.
Meanwhile the Chiefs have been reborn under Pioli and Haley. There is both toughness and intelligence at work in the Arrowhead offices and the product is showing on the field. By 2013, Cassel, Bowe, Berry, Dorsey, Charles, DJ, and several others should be in their prime.
So which team will truly own the heart of KC sports fans if a World Series and Super Bowl run is made in 2013?
The answer is both, I hope. As a 40 year old man with only one KC championship on the mantle, its a problem we’d all like to have.