Sportsball as Community Ball as My Ball

Sportsball as Community Ball as My Ball

We are all Royal. At least we are in Kansas City right now. In both the spirit of the World Series win, me being nostalgic over different pieces of my writing and the fact that IT IS NOW BASKETBALL SEASON, I’m re-working this piece and adding a bit more context around what I’ve seen happen in KC this year and what I already know about my own sportsball fandom. Let’s play ball!

Sports build community. From pride-of-their-suburb Little League teams to pulse-of-their-city World Series pennant holders to that proud handful of farmhouses who raised that NASCAR driver, sports makes a community.

I grew up in a pre-Carolina Panthers, original Charlotte Hornets, retiring Richard Petty, saying hello to Stormy, but never to a Major League Baseball team of it’s own, Greensboro, NC (also known as Tournament Town).

There were these two mystery Coke (and yes, they were actually Coca-Cola) cans in the hall closet next to my bedroom door. One of them looked normal enough, it was bright red and had white lettering. It did have a wolf-head, and the words National Champions 1983 on them. Clearly, that wasn’t so normal. The other one was bright blue and nobody’s soda came in a bright blue can. The ram’s head and the 1982 national championship it honored wasn’t that weird.


Food cans to support your basketball team aren’t that weird where I’m from. Photo by the author.

I tried being a NASCAR fan for five seconds. No lasting interest in watching cars go around a track. Baseball’s just so much better in person, plus, our beloved Grasshoppers are really the benchwarmers for the Miami Marlins. Too many degrees of separation[Hold this thought, we’ll get back to it soon, in this version].

The Charlotte professional men’s basketball team should have never stopped being the Hornets. Major League Soccer shouldn’t give up on us. Having your football team see the inside of a Super Bowl isn’t too shabby though and hockey’s decent. The Canes do have a Stanley Cup, so I’ve felt what it’s like to have your team be national champions. However, I much rather be at the PNC Arena when the normal HVAC system is operating and I can yell out Wolf and be met with a resounding Pack.

And when your arch rivals are only a few miles away, but still get major airplay on ESPN, this is how you choose your favorite sport. I’m a proud alumna of N.C. State University. That is how I chose my team.


The only court that matters in my world.  Photo by the author.

And so bracket time is like my Super Bowl. In the weeks leading up to the Big Dance, I’m dancing around my TV at home, watching all the conference tournaments. I’m paying more attention to games when I’m out at networking socials at bars. I’m wearing red, lots of red. And I’m more than ready to make more than one bracket and explain to you why I did.


But that’s March. Now it’s November. If you’ve been following me on Facebook and Twitter these past few weeks, there haven’t been a lot of posts about N.C. State anything, besides a brief one about homecoming. I am proud of the football team doing so well, but they did just lose said homecoming. Business as usual.

I’ve been in a city for almost five months now, that has a handful of college teams of prominence, but none that tickle my fancy the way my Wolfpack do. I hear the Big 12 tournament turns KC into tournament town, we shall see about that.

But this is November. In November, one of those professional teams that plays hundreds of games from April through October with a bat and a ball has beat all the other teams like that that use a bat and a ball. This year, that team is the Kansas City Royals.

When it comes to the National League, because of my affinity for DC, I’m pretty settled on the Washington Nationals as my primary team. If I have to pick a New York team, it’s the Mets. Chicago, the Cubs for the sake of the underdogs. My family members that do follow MLB tend to be Braves fans.

But the reality is, outside of that, prior to this year, as I said above, I was more a fan of the ballpark experience. My first Royals game this year was just that. I was moving to Kansas City, I like going to ballparks, they did go to the World Series last year, let’s check it out.

Now mind you, I have a significant other who can spit out stats and knows all the rules. That also helps.

At this point, let’s get back to that idea that sports build community. When I was thinking about that World Series pennant holder in the first paragraph, I was thinking about the Royals, not the Nats. I’d seen all the #beroyal tweets last year, seemingly from everyone I knew in KC at the time, which was only a handful of folks, and they didn’t seem especially sports crazy.

But I was wrong and now I understand. I’m also going to go ahead and say it: as far as the feelings they invoke and the frenzy they cause, the Royals are Duke and Carolina basketball rolled up into one pretty bow.

The Royals even use both blues, which makes my dressing to support them so much easier. Despite my status as a proud Ms. Wolfpacker, blue, in any shade, is my favorite color and color to wear.

Again, what makes the Royals fandom and playing style like Tobacco Road, despite the fact that there’s a difference in sport, region and level of competition, is that people care so much. I Facebooked this article out Sunday night, just before the game started.

The article shows where the two World Series teams gained new fans this year. The Mets fandom reads like the NYC diaspora. The Royals fandom is centered on a huge blue blob in the dead center of the country. If it weren’t for these Royals, it seems, some of these states out here would have no major national attention, at least the sports world.

Screenshot 2015-11-03 08.04.46

The map itself. Image by 

Again, outside of the Kansas, Wichita State, Kansas State and Missouri dominance in various sports in their respective leagues there would be nothing that excites the nation about Kansas City sports. The Chiefs don’t consistently dominate enough, at least not in this era. And neither did the Royals, until last year. In fact, they’ve not won a World Series in my lifetime. Until now.

And when your city turns blue at night and you like blue and everybody, from either side of Troost, the state line, the River, the Plaza, inside 435, outside 435, even back home tell you they want to see the Royals win and then celebrate when they do?

Yeah, I might have to be #foreveroyal. Meanwhile, it’s time to #surviveandadvance. Maybe if the Royals can come back from the 80s, the Wolfpack can too.

Also, as a P.S., check out this New York Times article by an Overland Park native, on what it feels like on the ground to have this win here. I’ll also try to Periscope from the parade, but at the very least check me out on there on Wednesday at 5:30 Central for a recap of what I saw, I’ll be tweeting pictures and finally, I’m going to be on Open Source with Christopher Lydon this week talking about Boston, as well. Check your iTunes and your local listings for that.

About Kristen Jeffers

I'm Kristen. Almost five years ago, I got tired of not seeing black women as nerded out about trains, better streets, riding bikes, walking not just out of necessity, tall buildings, old buildings and honestly a lot of other things. I was in grad school for community and economic development (ok, it’s actually an MPA), and I wanted to make sure people knew I existed and that I could help them do this thing called placemaking better. Five years later, I’m still doing that, although not from my hometown of Greensboro, NC, but from Kansas City, MO. I spend most of my time in Kansas City promoting better biking and walking infrastructure metro-wide with BikeWalk KC and the Kansas City B-cycle. But I also wrote a book A Black Urbanist (you can grab that over on the right) and sometimes I give speeches and help other communities tell their stories at design charrettes and public meetings. I’ve also written or appeared in all of the major “urbanist” publications, either as a subject or as a writer, as well as most of my hometown papers as subject or writer as well.