Last week, while chatting with some co-workers on a business trip, it got brought up that I was from Kansas City. “Oh, well that explains why you’re so nice,” one of them replied, in a manner that was sincerely meant as a compliment.
I guess people from Kansas City are just different.
I have always taken pride in where I come from, and while I now call Chicago home as well, Kansas City is where it all started for me. It’s where I found the best barbecue on planet Earth (come at me, Texas). It’s where I developed unwavering loyalty for often floundering sports franchises (but let me tell you about the current AL Central standings…). And, most importantly, it’s where I learned to treat people the way I wanted to be treated; to greet them with a smile and a handshake instead of as an awkward moment waiting to happen.
Barbecue, sports, and hospitality; it’s in our DNA.
The last ten days have put those three things on full display with the arrival of Royals superfan SungWoo Lee. By now, you’ve heard his story more times than you can count, but if you haven’t read Rany Jazayerli‘s piece that made the New York Times, or Ethan Bryan‘s blog post , they both provide awesome perspectives from different angles of the story. SungWoo went from South Korea’s biggest Royals fan to Kansas City cult hero in just ten short days. The hashtag #SungWooToKC was used over 14,000 times during his trip. He he was interviewed what had to be over 50 times, he was featured on SportsCenter, he threw out the first pitch at The K, and oh yeah, he put up the W after the Royals took over first place in the AL Central Monday night.
The entire country got to watch what, on the surface, was a celebration of SungWoo, but what they were really witnessing was a celebration of Kansas City. It was a celebration of people opening up their homes, of restaurants sharing their food, of a team that rolled out the red carpet for its biggest international fan. It was a celebration of people coming together over a common interest. It was a celebration of a city whose hospitality continues to surprise even its own residents. As Chris Kamler, who was one of the leaders of SungWoo’s welcoming committee, told me on Monday:
“We must have been stopped over 200 times at the Chiefs game on Thursday with folks saying, ‘Hey, welcome to KC, thanks for coming to our city.’ Every time I heard that I became overwhelmed. This is a damn fine town, and I’m really proud of it this week.”
How can you not be? In a world where it is far too easy to get lost in the overwhelming amount of hate that exists, it’s nice to be reminded that there is some good out there, too. So here’s to you, Kansas City. Don’t ever change.