Three for Thursday: Kansas City & Chicago's cultural clash
Normally, Three for Thursday revolves around the game – best historical matchups, players with similar backgrounds, top midseason pick-ups and the like. We thought we'd try something a little different this week.
After conferring briefly, we realized there were two clear candidates with personal, intimate knowledge of each city to help preview Friday's match between Sporting KC and the Chicago Fire on NBC Sports Network. So without further ado, here's how Andrew Wiebe (KC) and Nick Firchau (CHI) define their respective cities in regard to food, music and sports culture.
In Kansas City, you can often tell something about people by their answer to a simple question: What’s the best barbeque in town? Opinion is decidedly split, although a thick, sweet sauce reigns supreme, but I don’t set foot within the city limits without indulging at least once at Oklahoma Joe’s. One-third gas station and two-thirds monument to smoked meat, the line often stretches out to the parking lot, where the smell of hickory smoke is pervasive. You really can’t go wrong, but my personal vice is the Z-Man (above left), a brisket sandwich topped with melted provolone and two crispy onion rings. Wash it down with a Boulevard Wheat, a local institution brewed right down the street, and you’ve got a meal that’s distinctly KC.
They’ll cook up Italian beef until the cows come home at a Chicago Fire game, but the real Chicago delicacy is a deep dish pizza served in an 18-inch pan with a number for your local physician taped on the back. Order it up from wherever like – Gino’s, Lou Malnati’s or even Giordano’s – and you’ll wonder why the hell anyone ever bothered to roll out a thin crust at all. Quitters.
This conversation revolves around a historic intersection – 18th and Vine – just southeast of downtown, where clubs took advantage of lax governance in the 1920s, 1930s and early 1940s to shape jazz as we know it. With establishments often open until dawn, all-night jam sessions were the norm, as legends like Charlie Parker (right) and Count Basie made names for themselves on Kansas City’s stages. Even today, riffs flow freely in what is now a historic district bookended by the American Jazz Museum.
We could begin and end this argument with the blues (Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy) and hip-hop (Common, Kanye West), but that’s too easy. It’s impossible not to mention the fact that Jeff Tweedy and Wilco are homegrown heroes, the Smashing Pumpkins first cut their teeth at the Metro, and instrumental rock gods Tortoise sound like your own personal "Super Mario Brothers" music for getting to work on the Blue Line. Plus, we got Peter Cetera.
KC is, first and foremost, a city dominated by the college sports scene, with rooting interests split between Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri. Rivalries play out organically in workplaces and classrooms year-round, and, much like barbeque, to whom you pledge your allegiance matters. Outside of Sporting KC, however, the professional outlook is rather bleak, as the Chiefs and Royals compete to see who can tease fans more with potential and promise before settling into another season of mediocrity.
Two easy points here. The single greatest sports documentary ever made focuses on the perils and promise of Chicago prep basketball (Hoop Dreams), and there is no better sporting venue to be on a sunny summer afternoon than Wrigley Field. Every Big Ten school has at least five bars loaded with faithful fans on college football Saturdays, and Solider Field hosted the opening ceremonies the only time the World Cup came to America. Did we mention the Chicago Marathon, da Bears or Michael Jordan?