Saturday, December 27, 2014

What is a Kings fan doing in Kansas City?

It took a while and a move to a lot of different places, but it feels great to embrace Sacramento, the Kings and "Boogie" Cousins

Just to be clear, I am not in my 50's and 60's and remember watching Kansas City Kings game in Kemper Arena. I live near Kemper Arena, but I have never been there, mainly because I have no desire to see the circus or the National Stock Show (which in some people's opinions may be one in the same thing). I have lived in Kansas City for a couple of years now, but I am a Sacramentan at heart, having grown up in the metro area during my formative years (elementary through high school).

And as a Sacramentan, I'm sure most of you may say "You grew up a Kings fan, right?" Well, not exactly. Originally, I grew up a Warriors fan and more predisposed to College Basketball in my younger years. Much like most middle-aged men in their 40's and 50's, I bought into the belief that college basketball was better fundamentally, the players played defense, and all that kind of hoopla Gene Hackman instilled in us basketball fans subconsciously in the movie "Hoosiers" (I was a staunch believer in the four passes before a shot rule until I got to high school).

The one nice thing though about being so up close to the college game however (I went to Gonzaga for undergrad) is you realize how flawed it is, even at the Division 1 level. Players aren't really all that great fundamentally at times, and some really don't give a darn about defense. College games have become slow, plodding affairs, orchestrated by "control-freak" coaches who win over college administrations, fans, and the press with coaching styles that are categorized as"Old School" and "Strategic." The spirit of the Hickory Hoosiers pumps through the veins of nearly every college basketball team, especially at the Division 1 level, and the game has become a lot more boring and less creative because of it.

That is not to say I have grown to hate college basketball. I still enjoy the game. I still have college basketball blogs listed on the blogroll. But as I have grown into my mid-20's, I have slowly endeared myself more and more to the NBA game. And rightfully so. The NBA game is better than ever before. Yes, the late 90's and early 2000's was a rough a period. I am not going to say anything that Bill Simmons hasn't said before, so I won't even bother to mention it. But as I have gotten older, the NBA has taken a step up in capturing my interest and fandom in comparison to college basketball simply due to the fact that it's just a better game. College basketball has its moments, and the NCAA Tournament remains priority viewing (as does Gonzaga, my alma mater), but when it comes to my favorite sport to watch, cover and analyze, the NBA holds the top podium spot by far.

So the progression from college basketball to NBA fan has been explained. But what about the transition to being a Kings fan, especially considering I reside in Kansas City? Well, I originally grew up a Golden State Warriors fan. Most of my family resides in the Bay Area, and being the kind of kid who looked up to his older cousins fanatically so, being a Warriors fan seemed to be a natural fit. And being a Warriors fan in Sacramento also gave me a cool little niche growing up. As much as I liked the Kings on the court, (I loved Vlade and C-Webb), it was tougher for me to jump on the whole "Cowbell" bandwagon of the early 2000's. Maybe I was rebelling against my hometown. Maybe I didn't like the Maloofs (even when they were shelling out cash to the franchise). Maybe I was just being that typical adolescent who just didn't know who the heck he was yet, and not liking his hometown team and cheering for the closer rival instead just seemed like the thing do. There were multiple factors in my decision not to attach myself to the Kings.

But, you grow up. You mature, and when you spend years apart from your hometown you come to realize and appreciate it when you come back, especially when you have been away from so long (this recent trip to Sacramento was my first visit in over 2 years). You realize that you enjoy other places because they remind you of home. Kansas City is like that for me. It's the Sacramento of the Midwest: big enough, not pretentious and severely under-looked and appreciated in comparison to the other major cities of its area (San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles for Sacramento; St. Louis, Chicago and Milwaukee for Kansas City). It's only fitting I will cover the Kings franchise on this blog from not only it's former home (the Kings had some good runs in Kansas City), but in such a doppelganger of Sacramento (Sacramento has nicer weather; Kansas City has the barbecue; really the only differences).

So do I hate the Warriors now? No, not at all. I love Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. I think Steve Kerr is on the cusp of being one of the next great coaches. But sometimes, especially as you get older and are trying to figure yourself out, you need to attach yourself to what you grew up with. Whether I liked it or gravitated to it or not, I grew up with the Kings. As a kid who moved there when I was 9, I always wanted to be in a market with a NBA team, and now, almost 20 years later, I finally realized I had that, and didn't appreciate it. Now I am appreciating it. I realize that Sacramento is a part of me, part of my history, and a part of where I want to be in the future, whether it is moving back to Sacramento and getting season tickets, or staying in Kansas City and following the Kings on NBA League pass.

The Kings are doing so many cool things. Vivek's "meddling" nature (both good and bad), Pete D, DMC to NYC, Rudy and Cousins starring on the USA team in the FIBA World Cup, #SacramentoProud, the new Arena, Sleep Train Arena (hey it's still great to watch a game there, even if the seats are still red and blue), NBA Draft 3.0, STAUSKAS!!! There's about as much if not more to be excited about as a Kings fan as there was in the 2000's with Adelman, C-Webb, Kobe Food Poisoning, Lakers Game 6, Doug Christie, Doug Christie's Insane Wife, Peja and Valde, Mike Bibby going insane and then fading ever so slowly, etc. I can't believe I have jumped on this Kings bandwagon. I can't believe I bought NBA League pass to not follow the Warriors (though I will be watching a lot of their games still), but the Kings. And I cannot believe that amid all the Jayhawk and bandwagon NBA fans (Cavs, Thunder mostly), I will be rocking the Kings badge of honor in fandom and gear.

"Home is where the heart is" is the popular saying. In the past 10 years, I have lived in 5 different places, and experienced all different kinds of sport experiences and fans and team coverage. And now, despite all those experiences and kinds of exposure, I didn't turn into some contrived "Thunder-Nuggets-Warriors-Jayhawks-Lakers" fan like that sickening family in that NFL commercial where they all change fan allegiances due to college and romantic interests.("Oh hey, I eat this cheeseburger at my college in Pittsburgh! Screw the Vikings! Go Steelers man! My hometown can't beat the Roethlis-Burger!"). It took a long way to get there, but I am happy to reconnect, happy to have grown up where I did and am definitely #Sacramentoproud.

Go Kings! (From both my home in Sacramento and 1,717 miles away in Kansas City).

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