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The Li'l Brudder Problem
Sporting Kansas City, can you show me how to get the most out of life?
There are plentiful problems with Sporting Kansas City at the moment. A lack of goal-scoring, a general lackadaisical manner on the pitch, poor injury luck, poor defensive play, a lack of defensive consistency, a lack of structure, a lack of intensity, a lack of cohesion, poor goalkeeping, a lack of integration of academy talent, a philosophical approach to the sport which seems to have been lapped by others in the league, tickets are too expensive, it feels like the club's intent on running a decade of good will into the ground, the club's sending C&Ds out to all manner of independent creators... and that's among many other issues.
My main problem, though, is perhaps best exemplified by an anecdote. Last Saturday, during the game against the Earthquakes, I was at a bar in downtown Lawrence where the game was being shown on a TV. I was on the other side of the room from that TV playing darts during the game's first half. I was able to catch brief glimpses of it from time to time, but it wasn't a priority of mine. I managed, through sheer skill and intuition, to ensure that I was looking over that way for Cristian Espinoza's goal and Robert Castellanos' red card, but I was able to look away very easily.
I am not captivated by this team in failure. I am, in the moment, quite bored by the team's failure. They are not failing in interesting fashions on the mezzo level. They are failing in a broadly interesting fashion on a macro level, but I am quite easily able to look away from this team's impotence. This simply has to change. This team will not be a Shield contender and this team will not be a first-in-the-Western-Conference-CCL-spot contender. The US Open Cup is probably an impossibility and Vermes will likely field what we in the business call a 'protest lineup' in the Leagues Cup again. I think that most definitions of success for Sporting Kansas City in this season are more-or-less out of reach at the moment.
Bleak as this is, the season is only a quarter or so of the way finished at this point. There is still time to salvage something, and nearly two-thirds of the league makes the playoffs. It's not mathematically impossible for this team to go on a tear at some point and finish in ninth... Logically, it feels unlikely, and emotionally, I'm skeptical -- but it is not completely impossible. There's a long, long road to get there, and it is just littered with hurdles, it is a metaphorical road constructed by a frustrated junior high track coach looking to punish his team for dogging it in the meet with James K. Polk Middle School last weekend. To get to ninth in the west, Sporting must first clear the hurdles of getting a higher point total about a third of the western conference, which would require winning several matches, which would require Sporting to winning a single match, which would require Sporting both scoring at least a goal as well as stopping the opposition from scoring one of their own, neither of which have been happening with any frequency this season.
They cannot clear that hurdle without a change in mentality, a change that I believe takes up like the first five or six metaphorical hurdles on this metaphorical track. Somewhere there, maybe hurdle four or five, is a change from ignorable losing to captivating losing.
I take this line to indicate that the hurdles metaphor is henceforth finished. There will be no more references to the hurdles metaphor in this piece. What is to follow is an extended Homestar Runner allusion.
At the moment, Sporting Kansas City, spiritually, is Tendafoot. Sporting Kansas City is a two-legged elephant whose whining could power a small city. Sporting Kansas City must instead become Li’l Brudder, the one-legged puppy who believes it will become a quarterback and throw for 2000 yards, who declares that it can make it on its own. I need Sporting Kansas City to bring me to my knees in tears, rolling around on the ground, asking what I’m doing with my life. Sporting Kansas City must make me think about getting into male modeling or maybe high finance.
Sporting Kansas City cannot continue to fail ignorably. This team cannot continue to lose in a way that has me deciding to choose darts above them. I fucking suck at darts. I’m fucking terrible at every pub game. If I become adept at even a single pub game in 2023, it’s Peter Vermes’ fault. Anyway – Before we even think about the Western Conference play-in game, before we think about ninth place in the Western Conference, before we even think about winning a fucking match, Sporting Kansas City has to start losing in an endearing fashion. They need to be giving up stoppage time goals after scrapping and clawing out a slim lead in the first 90 minutes. They need to be losing on suspect refereeing decisions. I need to feel bad for their misfortune. I need to be reduced to dissolving into tears and mumbling about this team having a heart of a champion. They need to make me believe that…
Ah, fuck. Was that it? Was that the point? Do they need to make me believe that we will win? Fine. Sure. That’s it. They need to make me honestly mean it when I do the “I Believe That We Will Win” chant (for the record, I hope we do that chant until the end of time, I hope we do that forever. I was sick of it for a second but after hearing Sounders fans do their “FIGHT AND WIN” chant when it became clear they’d win the CCL final in 2022 I’m back in on it. We have to keep it alive well past the point of it being the subject of ridicule as sort of a statement of defiance.), or at least make me feel something when they don’t. Once they clear that hurdle, they can start looking at the others in front of them1.
You just keep scrapin’ along, Sporting KC.
SHIT, SORRY, I LIED