KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — There was a time when sports fans in Kansas City were considered among the best in sports, when Kauffman Stadium was the place to be during the sweltering summer months and tailgating at Arrowhead Stadium a rite of crisp autumn days.
Lately, the perception of Royals and Chiefs fans has taken a hit.
The latest and most volatile flashpoint occurred Sunday, when burly offensive tackle Eric Winston laid into the small percentage of Chiefs fans who cheered when embattled quarterback Matt Cassel sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter of a 9-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
During a post-game diatribe that quickly went viral, Winston called the cheering "sickening" and said he'd never been more embarrassed to play pro football. Winston has since clarified his statement to say not all Chiefs fans were cheering the injury, but he's otherwise stood by his comments.
Words that have been dissected by people all over the country.
Former Chiefs quarterback Ron Jaworski, now an ESPN analyst, asked "Where's the civility?" ''Good Morning America" and "Inside Edition" hosts chimed in, Donny Deutsch on the "Today" show bemoaned a "thug culture" in society and Star Jones opined, "We cheer bad behavior now."
Not exactly what people have come to expect of the heartland.
Right or wrong, Kansas City's reputation for fans who are devoted to their downtrodden franchises has been replaced with one of callousness — in some quarters, at least — no better than those Cleveland Browns fans who cheered when QB Tim Couch got hurt in 2002, or those Oakland Raiders fans who got into fistfights in the stands during a game against San Diego in 1999, or those Philadelphia Eagles fans who booed Santa Claus way back in 1968.
"I think it's a misperception, or a bad perception," said Bob Fescoe of 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City. "That's not Kansas City fans. They're loyal, they're dedicated, they're hard-working people. ... That's just not how we do it here in Kansas City."
Indeed, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index last year listed the city among the "happiest" metropolitan areas in the country. Its downhome charm and Midwestern sensibility are big reasons why people continue to flock to what's been called the Paris of the Plains.
Winston said Monday he didn't think his comments would gain such traction, but they've become the impetus for a discussion of what's considered uncouth behavior in ballparks and stadiums.
The line of demarcation is blurry at best.
Royals fans earlier this summer mercilessly booed the Yankees' Robinson Cano when, as captain of the American League for the Home Run Derby, he went back on his word to choose a Royals player to participate. Cano was clearly shaken by the non-stop booing, and the reigning champion failed to hit a single home run as he was eliminated from the competition.
Folks across the country eviscerated Royals fans for what they deemed boorish behavior, while those in Kansas City argue they were merely showing their passion for their own guy.
Just last week, they point out, they gave the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera a standing ovation for becoming the first player in 45 years to achieve the Triple Crown.
The angst toward their own teams has been simmering for years.
The Royals were once a model small-market club, regularly contending for championships. But following the death of beloved owner Ewing M. Kauffman in 1993, and the purchase of the franchise by David Glass, a period of mediocrity — or worse — set in that continues to this day.