Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Also, the women there are crazy and little

More from Bill James in the 1986 Baseball Abstract...

For the benefit of anybody who is not familiar with the cities, St. Louis is a much nicer city than Kansas City, and I'll tell you why in a moment. Yet at every insurgence of the national media, Kansas City press packets are handed out repeating a number of overworked boasts about the place. "Kansas City has more fountains than Rome." Well, I suppose so; the only problem is that about two-thirds of Kansas City's fountains are just jets of water shooting up in front of a branch bank in the middle of a bunch of Burger Kings and stuff, and have the esthetic impact of large lawn sprinklers. "Kansas City has more miles of boulevards than any city except Paris." This one always conjures up images of the International Board of Boulevard Certification, walking along saying "No, I'm afraid this one is just an 'avenue' unless you widen the curb space by four more inches and plant six more trees per half-mile." Another favorite is "Kansas City is the Christmas card capital of the Midwest." Can you imagine going into New York City for a World Series and having a press person come out to Shea and tell you how many Christmas cards are printed in New York City?

There are about seven reasons why St. Louis is a much nicer city than Kansas City. Number one, it is older, and has a much richer architectural heritage. Number two, its neighborhoods are much stronger. As Kansas City has grown, it has absorbed and neutralized the small cities around it, none of which retains a distinct flavor to contribute to the city. This hasn't happened in St. Louis. Number three, the downtown area is much more pleasant -- you can walk around it, there's shopping there, the ballpark is there. Kansas City's downtown area is basically a business area. Number four, St. Louis has integrated the river into the city, adding a great deal to the city esthetically; Kansas City has buried its river underneath a heap of train tracks, access roads, and dirty bridges. Number five, St. Louis probably has more good restaurants. If it doesn't have more of them, they're easier to find. Number six, St. Louis has many more areas that one can walk around and enjoy. Kansas City is all built to accommodate the automobile. And number seven, you can drive around St. Louis without getting lost. Unless you stay on the Interstate system, Kansas City has got to be the most confusing, frustrating city to drive around in the United States, with the possible exception of Atlanta, and Atlanta only because all of the streets are named Peachtree. The Kansas City street department renames their streets about every three blocks, so that it is all but impossible to keep track of where you are and how to get where you want to go. Drive you nuts.

That being said, there are things to like about Kansas City. It's reasonably clean. The best restaurants in Kansas City generally don't have any kind of expectations about dress; requiring a jacket or tie is considered rather pretentious. I like that. I'm mor ecomfortable eating out in KC than I am in New York -- but anybody who suggested that the third-best restaurant in KC would crack the top 50 in New York would be out of his skull. The city's image would improve a lot if they would just accept themselves for what they are, and stop handing out malarkey about how many miles of boulevard they have.

From my perspective, I know there's one advantage to Kansas City: passenger trains are once again using the old train station downtown, even though most of it was turned into a science museum years ago. That's apparently not an option in St. Louis, where the old train station was permanently transformed into a mall years ago. Also, right near the train station in Kansas City is an old building with an old advertising sign on the top...

On the other hand, my one experience at the Kansas City airport found me having to leave the security area in order to use the men's room (in 2000 -- hopefully they've done some rearranging in the years since); by contrast, the St. Louis airport has a more conventional design, and I remember that the exposed ductwork and digital clocks on the signs hanging above the concourse (helpfully labeled "Central Time") fascinated me as a young boy when my family was changing planes there on the way to Iowa.

And I've been to a baseball game in St. Louis but not Kansas City. So, in conclusion, Bill James is absolutely right.

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Wow! You have GOT to be kidding! Saint Louis is better than KC? Riiiiiiiight. Are you sure you guys didn't stop off in Independence (the self-proclaimed "meth capitol of the midwest" and smoke some of their biggest export before writing that piece of drivel?

Kansas City is all-around better than Saint Louis, and I'll give you TEN reasons why:
1. The food. Kansas City is known WORLD-WIDE for its barbecue. Anyone worth their salt (Zagat Survery included) will tell you that eating at Gates, Arthur Bryant's or Jack Stack is a privledge and an honor. Let's see...what was the name of the Saint Louis-based restaraunt that Zagat awarded its highest honor to...oh wait, that's right! They DIDN'T. And as far as these resteraunts being hard to find, well, if you really have trouble finding a FRANCHISED establishment (both Gates' and Jack Stack are franchised)with more than five eateries in the city, I can't help you there.
2. The Fountains. If you're going to pick on a fact, then at least get your fact straight. Kansas City doesn't claim to have more fountains than Rome. On the contrary, Kansas City claims to be the city with the most fountains in the United States (at one time they claimed having the second most fountains in the world, but some other city in Europe recently passed them). Regardless of what you view to be a "real" fountain, I would really challenge you to find such a claim to fame for Saint Louis. All that city seems to hold onto is the fact that they have that eye-sore Jefferson Expansion Memorial Arch poking up next to the Mississippi.
3. The Parks and Boulevards System. I really have to question how ANYONE could find traveling around KC difficult. Numbered streets run East-West, named streets run North-South. If you're driving on Wornall Road and trying to get to the Country Club Plaza all you would have to do is look at the numbered street signs to get an idea about which direction you're heading (i.e. if you're driving past 47th Terrace and the next street sign you see says 48th Street, you might want to turn around and go the other way). As far as the streets changing their name every three blocks, I have to ask if you've ever been to Los Angeles or Chicago. Street names change as a city grows and its suburbs connect. It also gives you an idea that you've entered into another part of town. Every city does this, it is not a KC-specific phenomenon. With that being said, Kansas City's boulevards are known the world over. I believe you would be hard-pressed to find ANY street in Saint Louis that matches the beauty of a Ward Parkway or the culture of a Southwest Boulevard.
4. The Skyline. Say what you will about the lack of things to do in downtown KCMO. You can't however, deny the beauty of its skyline. Kansas City boasts the tallest building (One Kansas City Place) in six states (you have to go to Chicago in the East and Denver in the West to find cities with taller buildings). On top of that, there is a beautiful mixture of old and new. The skyscrapers of the Pendergast machine (City Hall, Jackson County Courthouse and the Power and Light Building) stand out on their own and yet still compliment some of the newer architecture like the TransAmerica Building, One KC Place and the H. Roe Bartle Hall Convention Center. In addition to that, depending on what side of downtown you stand on(North or South), the skyline takes on two strikingly different looks.
5. The Beer. Call me a non-conformist, but i'd rather drink my own urine than put a tall, frosty bottle of Budwiser up against my lips. The quality of the brew is poor and I KNOW most beer connoisseurs would agree with me there. I can't say the same about the high-quality products that come out of Kansas City's own Boulevard Brewery. Sure, one could argue that Boulevard isn't pumping out the high volume of suds that Busch is, but to most beer drinkers (not alcoholics, beer drinkers) the quality of a beer definately takes predominance over the quantity available.
6. The Stadiums. Granted, Saint Louis was able to get into bed with Jefferson City and entice enough funding out of the State to build a new Busch Stadium. I haven't been there, but I hear it's quite impressive. However, from what I HAVE seen of it, the new park STILL can't hold a candle to Kauffman Stadium. On top of that, Jackson County just passed a bond issue to renovate both the K and Arrowhead, which will increase the footprint of the former by 40% and add ammenities to the complex that will make one of the most beautiful ballparks in MLB into one of the most state-of-the art. (Sorry to inform you of this, but they will be putting a few more fountains in too...hope that they meet with your approval) I won't even try and compare the Edward Jones Dome with Arrowhead Stadium when it comes to a football venue. The NFL calls Arrowhead "the Loudest Stadium in the NFL"...I'm not sure if they call the EJ Dome anything at all other than an eyesore.
7. Renaissance. Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes has been spearheading a renaissance within the city limits of KC. By 2008, there will be a new entertainment district downtown and a new arena, Sprint Center as well as a large number of new lofts. The Truman Sports Complex is scheduled to be remodeled and completed by 2010 with continued discussion about a retractable roof for Arrowhead in the mix, which would bring a Super Bowl in 2015 to the city. As far as I know, the NFL hasn't offered Saint Louis a Super Bowl yet, although the EJ Dome is more than adequate to house such an event. Maybe the NFL sees something in KC that they don't see in STL?
8. The Music Scene. Kansas City is famous for their blues and jazz. The only cities that rival KC in their popularity for these genres are Memphis and New Orleans. In addition to such a rich musical heritage, Kansas City continues to be the birthplace of some of the best acts in their respective fields; artists like Tech N9ne, the Get Up Kids, Kansas, and Coelesce have been touring the world after getting starts in the KC area music scene. Even Eminem, although he claims Detroit as his hometown was born in KC. I would be quite interested in hearing the names of some STL-native musical artists besides Nelly that have had an impact on the international music scene.
9. Monuments. Sure, the Jefferson Expansion Memorial Arch may in fact be one of the better-known landmarks in the United States, but let's face it: it's ugly and looks completely out of place as part of the STL skyline. The Liberty Memorial in KC, however, the only WWI monument on US soil is far from being an eyesore and adds distinction and character to the skyline. Not to mention the view from the top of the memorial is much more breathtaking than from that on top of the Arch...and you don't even have to take a ride on a toilet seat inside of Mork from Ork's egg-spaceship to see it.
10. Entertainment. Westport (bar district and oldest development in the city), the Country Club Plaza (the country's OLDEST shopping center) and Crown Center (the best ice terrace this side of Rockerfeller)...I would be interested to hear what Saint Louis has to compete with those. When you add in the fact that in three years the Power and Light Entertainment District will come online, STL looks more like Des Moines in terms of quality and quantity of entertainment and certainly doesn't appear ready to compete with its neighbor to the West for visiting tourists.

In closing, I would like to say that I hope you've "seen the folly of your ways." Kansas City has been made a candidate for a "World-Class City", Saint Louis has not, and in addition, if you look at the most recent census reports, KC has shown growth in terms of population while STL has not. To compare the two cities and say that Saint Louis is better is like taking a Rolex watch and holding it up next to a cheap knock-off you picked up from a street vendor in NYC and saying "this knock-off is better than real thing because it sparkles just like the real thing and tells the time just like the real thing." The problem with that line of thinking is, that it's NOT the real thing. It's a cheap knock-off and in will break years before the real thing will. Kansas City is the real thing, Saint Louis is a paper-champ contender.
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