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Fans in Kansas City cast in disparaging light

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Fans in Kansas City cast in disparaging light

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.

The Royals haven't been back to the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series, the longest drought in one of America's four major professional sports.

The Chiefs once sold out Arrowhead Stadium every game, and owner Lamar Hunt's folksy charm endeared him to fans. But even before his death in 2006, the franchise had fallen into hard times, and it's continued under the leadership of his son, Clark Hunt, and general manager Scott Pioli.

The Chiefs are currently 1-4, and they haven't won a playoff game since 1993, a longer drought than every NFL team but Cincinnati and Detroit.

``This town just wants a winner. We just want to be relevant,'' said Eric Crandall, a fan from Independence, Mo., who's been attending Chiefs games for more than two decades. ``The coasts refer to us as 'flyover country.' This being the town of Truman, we want the buck to stop here.''

Dr. Don Forsyth, an expert in group behavior, leadership and moral judgment in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at Richmond University, said he's not surprised by the fan backlash.

``There's a breaking point. That's the key,'' Forsyth said. ``Fans think they're part of the team, and that's why they take wins and losses so seriously. Then when they see the administration or the leaders as the out-group, they'll engage in some pretty negative behaviors.''

There are similarities in the two organizations besides won-loss records.

Both have owners who rarely speak publicly, giving them a perceived aloofness. Both franchises have been accused of being miserly, and both have made embarrassing public gaffs over the years.

In response to one angry fan, an anonymous Chiefs employee tweeted on the team's official account a few weeks ago, ``Would help if you had your facts straight. Your choice to be a fan. cc get a clue.'' The tweet was taken down and an apology issued by the Chiefs moments later.

``You would think a team doing this poorly would try and generate some sort of goodwill with the fans,'' Crandall said.

The anger felt by fans was on display Sunday long before Cassel got hurt.

On one of the access roads leading into the stadium, tailgaters hung a bed sheet carrying a painted message calling the Chiefs an ``embarrassment.'' Fans cobbled together enough money to hire an airplane to tow a banner over the stadium asking for Cassel to be benched and Pioli to be fired.

Cassel has been the source of frustration for years. He was booed lustily during a celebrity softball game this summer, and fans have been calling for his job since the start of the season.

That's part of the reason some cheered when he was hurt.

In their eyes, it was the only way the Chiefs would give backup Brady Quinn a chance.

``You never, ever, as a true fan want to see a player get injured,'' said Ty Rowton, also known as Chiefs super-fan X-Factor, who attended his 234th straight game at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

``I didn't hear any fans cheering that Cassel was hurt,'' Rowton said. ``When he got up and started walking from the field, the fans gave a very loud cheer, thanking him for sacrificing himself.

``There was an even bigger cheer when it was announced that Brady Quinn was going in.''

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 122-105 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night...

1. This was a tough one for the Wizards. For the third time this season, they got beaten by the Hornets and for the second straight time it was in a blowout.

They still had their moments, though, including this alley-oop from Tomas Satoransky (11 points) to Markieff Morris (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds). It was the second alley-oop connection for those two in as many games:

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

2. This was a play that encapsulated the Wizards' night. Jodie Meeks drew a flagrant foul on Michael Carter-Williams, but took a hard shot to the head:

3. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had a solid game with 11 points, including this big dunk:

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4. Speaking of Oubre, he helped the Wizards close the first half with a late surge. The real highlight was Bradley Beal stealing the ball and hitting a corner three at the buzzer:

5. Beal ended up with 33 points, six assists and six rebounds. Here's an and-1 he got to go down in the second half:

All in all, it was an ugly performance for the Wizards. To cheer you up, we'll leave you with this young fan who had a great time at Capital One Arena despite the result:

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 122-105 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Bad matchup: Despite their poor record, there is something about this Charlotte Hornets team that gives the Wizards trouble. The Wizards lost to the Hornets (26-33) for the third time in three tries this season on Friday night and, aside from a push in the third quarter, they were never really in it.

All in all, it was a dud of a game for the Wizards who were probably due for one. They had won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall got injured. They were also coming off a huge road win the night before in Cleveland, a game that started an hour later than usual.

It was a tough turnaround and the Wizards sure looked like it. It was evident in their defense and unforced errors. They did, however, have a decent shooting night. They shot 49.4 percent from the field 16-for-17 from the free throw line.

The Wizards' second unit didn't provide a lift outside of Kelly Oubre, Jr. (11 points). Mike Scott, one of their best bench options, was held scoreless.

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

Ugly first half: The Wizards only trailed by 12 points at halftime, but that score was skewed by a five-point push in the final seconds. The Hornets dominated for much of the first two quarters and did so by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. Those mistakes dug the Wizards a hole they never recovered from.

The Wizards had 10 turnovers in the first half, the same amount they had in their entire game the night before. Limiting mistakes was a big reason they beat the Cavaliers, yet the script was flipped by Charlotte.

The Hornets capitalized with 23 points off those 10 first-half turnovers. The Wizards had 14 giveaways for the games that led to 28 total points. 

Charlotte was 7-for-11 from three at one point in the first half and finished 17-for-39 (43.6%) for the game. That is very uncharacteristic for the Wizards, who entered the night second in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage.

Again, though, the first half ended well as Oubre and Bradley Beal gave the Wizards a jolt in the final seconds:

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Bad defense: The Wizards have played some great defense in recent weeks, but they just didn't have it on Friday night. Most surprising were the guys that hurt them most.

Dwight Howard was limited to 11 points and six rebounds and Kemba Walker didn't score his first points until the final minute of the first half. But others like Frank Kaminsky (23 points), Marvin Williams (15 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points) got pretty much anything they wanted.

For Walker, it was a tale of two halves. He was held in check by Tomas Satoransky in the first half, but broke out in the third quarter and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Maybe it was tired legs on the Wizards' part, but Walker just kept dribbling until he got space and once he did, he knocked down shots.

Much like Kyle Lowry did a few weeks ago, Walker made adjustments to find success against Satoransky. We haven't seen that happen much since Wall went out, but those two have given him some trouble. Both guys are considerably smaller than Satoransky and very quick. Maybe there's something to that.

Add it all up and this was one of the worst defensive games of the season for the Wizards. They allowed their most points in a game since Jan. 17 against, you guessed it, the Hornets. Only three times this year have they given up more than what they allowed on Friday.

No Sessions: The Wizards did not debut their newest player on Friday night, which was probably to be expected given Ramon Sessions has not had any practice time yet. That is part of why he didn't play, but it's also another indication that he is unlikely to play much with the Wizards. Sessions is on a 10-day contract and is not expected to supplant either Satoransky or Tim Frazier at point guard. Frazier would seem to be the guy in danger of losing minutes, but it was business as usual for him against the Hornets.

Up next: The Wizards are off Saturday before returning to action at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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