OTC: Sporting KC’s Robb Heineman Lives Strong To His Word & Rights Soccer Wrongs

“They are dreadful. They are horrible. They are just awful. They’re pathetic. I’m just treating them like we treat everyone else in this town. That’s what they want. They’ve
got a major-league facility now and they’re big time now. Somebody’s got to say  it. This little feel-good, I love soccer ain’t getting it for me. That pathetic  problem they are putting out there on the pitch right now is just terrible – mind-numbingly bad and boring.”
Kevin Kietzman, after watching Sporting Kansas City’s home opener at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park last June, 810 AM
GH: KK ripped Sporting KC last June like they had drafted their entire roster from a collection of former Nebraska football players and immediate members of Jay Nixon’s family. And his harsh words were well earned and accurate. So much so, that they prompted the best phone call to a sports talk radio program in 2011. It is easy to forget the problems with Sporting back earlier this summer now that they are playing Sunday for a chance to make the title match. But back in June, here is how Robb Heineman, one of the team owners, responded to Kietzman’s verbal trashing…

“I can’t agree with you more about the performance on the field last night. It was
atrocious. It was a perfect night right up until we kicked off. … I absolutely agree with the standard that you hold us to. If that’s the sort of stuff we’re going to put on the field, people shouldn’t come out and watch. Period. It was bad.”
Robb Heineman, member of Sporting Kansas City’s ownership group, 810 AM
GH: I wrote the following back in June after hearing Robb’s call to Kietzman: Heineman was listening to KK’s afternoon show and called in to respond to Kietzman’s critical comments about his team. It was the kind of stuff you NEVER hear from a representative of a professional franchise, let alone one of the owners. Refreshing isn’t a strong enough word to describe Heineman’s reaction to media criticism. How about ground-breaking and inspiring?

“I can just tell you that it won’t be for lack of effort. We will do everything we can to get this thing righted.”
Robb Heineman, responding to Kietzman’s question of what he was going to do about fixing his team, 810 AM
GH: Here we sit, five months later, and the proof is in the success of his team. Heineman and his ownership group didn’t offer excuses or hide in Notevenclose, Arkansas. They rolled up their Plaza-bought shirtsleeves and got dirty fixing their investment. How else do you explain the incredible excitement this group of local businessmen have
brought to Kansas City?

“Without Lamar and Clark Hunt, there wouldn’t be soccer in America, and there certainly wouldn’t have been the Kansas City Wizards. But because they didn’t live in the
community, it was difficult to get them to apply the resources and the time to be able to deliver some of the things this [Sporting Kansas City] ownership group has been able to deliver.”
Don Garber, MLS Commissioner, in a conversation with The Star’s Sam Mellinger, Kansas City Star
GH: So living in the community is a positive if you want to grow your franchise’s success within that community? Imagine that. Somebody send a text to Dallas and Bentonville – “We need your help. Things not going real well. Wish you were here.”

“All of us [including The Clarks and the Glasses] have a little different vision. Is one better than the other? No, I don’t think so. But we do understand we have the ability to be
more innovative because our league’s young.”
Robb Heineman, Kansas City Star
GH: The Sporting Kansas City ownership group is new to their task. They are not unlike Lamar Hunt in his early days as an AFL owner – when I’m sure Lamar was full of excitement over his new team. Sporting’s owners held their fantasy football draft in their new stadium and projected their draft picks on the video board. How cool are these guys? My hope is they remain innovative and a bit “out there.” We have enough old-school thinking here in KC with the Chiefs and Royals. It is a pleasure to see Sporting’s
boys-but-men enjoying be owners rather than hiding from the task.

“We’re still a fledgling league. Clark Hunt, they [the Chiefs] need to be more cautious about some of the things they do. Quite frankly, we don’t.”
Robb Heineman, in an interview Wednesday with Nick Wright, when asked about not being as buttoned down as the NFL, 610 AM

“We sat out there an hour before the game and it was just brutal! Rain, wind… I was hoping it wouldn’t hurt the crowd [turnout] and it didn’t.”
Jake Gutierrez, on the rotten weather for Sportings’ match against Colorado Wednesday night, 810 AM
GH: I had to attend a four-hour musical workshop Wednesday night with our youngest son. As we walked to the parking lot just before 10 PM, the rain and wind from the north destroyed my sad excuse for an umbrella. After sneaking peeks at Twitter all night for Sporting updates, I could only imagine how it must have felt to be out in that weather the last three or four hours. Soccer is a young person’s sport. I would be interested to
know the average age of those inside Livestrong Wednesday evening. I am guessing it was under 30.

“They have to be some of the best fans in the city for any sport.”
Jake Gutierrez, on the rowdies that make of Sporting’s famed “Cauldron” at Livestrong, 810 AM
GH: What fan base has the best niche group of crazies? Is it the Cauldron? Mizzou’s Antlers? That newspaper-shredding bunch of Jayhawk students inside Allen Fieldhouse? How about the mass hysteria K-State fans create inside the Lair of The Glare? Do
the Chiefs and Royals have any group to rival these maniacs?

“When things become cool, do they become uncool?”
Nate Bukaty, fearing that the coolness of Sportings’ popularity along with a seat in The Cauldron will fade as the team moves more mainstream, 810 AM
GH: Well, the word “cool” has been around longer than The Fonz. I think The Cauldron and Sporting have a chance to rate a thumbs up for quite some time.

[email protected]  and Twitter / greghall24

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About Greg Hall

Software guy who has been writing my Off The Couch column in KC newspapers, publications and websites since 1994. Has been bounced from some of the finest media establishments this side of State Line Road. Dad first and everything else second...and there are a lot of everything elses.
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34 Responses to OTC: Sporting KC’s Robb Heineman Lives Strong To His Word & Rights Soccer Wrongs

  1. Mark says:

    Reminds me of driving to the K in 2003 for opening day and hearing 810 trash the Royals all day.

  2. j says:

    kk is old news. Ratings show wright is beating him. Fescoe is #1 sports talk show in kc. 610 is kicking WHB. How much longer will whb allow the slide to continue.

    • JFP says:

      How much longer?

      Um, I’m sure in your in-depth local radio analysis and research you do know that KK is one of the owners of Union Broadcasting? Are you expecting him to fire himself?

      Whatever 610 has or hasn’t, 810 has the ESPN affiliation. That alone ensures they aren’t going anywhere.

    • @aleitel says:

      hmmm Fescoe is #1 in KC huh? at what exactly?

    • Markus Aurelius says:

      you lost all credibility when you made the statement “Fescoe is (the) #1 sports talk show in kc.” That’s not true in any sense – he is not #1 in ratings, in experience, in broadcasting/reporting/interviewing skills, in sense of humor…..I could go on but why bother.

      You’re also wrong in stating that Wright is beating Kietzman in the ratings. The Royals beat him for a while, but Wright never has….ever. Nor will he ever so long as we have well educated, thoughtful fans in this city.

      • Jess says:

        Yep, and the new rating came out showing it. 610 is getting their asses handed to them. Too bad 610 didn’t do something during that time to hold on to listeners. Nick is un-listenable, The Bulldog is so crazy that I will listen just to hear what dumb things he will say. But then I will listen to 810 when anything in sports happens. I wish they would get that carm and that other guy on at 2, they seem like they would do good.

  3. JFP says:

    Hey, Greg, I was in the Cauldron last night. I’m 41…heh heh. But, yes, it’s a very college age crowd.

    • Greg Hall says:

      There are worse places to be than surrounded by college-age kids at a raucous sporting event. While soccer is not my cup of Joe, I dig that som many in KC are getting turned onto the game by Sportings’ success and swank new stadium.

  4. Orphan of the Road says:

    It is good to see a team with ownership which lives in the area. I hope they find a good fan base and grow.

    IF Hunt or Glass lived in the area they would be subjected to a daily assault on how they operate. Even in the select company of their friends they would get an earful.

    Now they rely on toadies to regurgitate how wonderful they are and blah blah blah.

    Not a soccer fan but a sports fan who is glad to see ownership get it right.

  5. PV_Pathfinder says:

    Ironically KK mentioned what a young looking crowd it was at Livestrong while he was broadcasting there. I’d wager Hummers to Cookie Diet cookies, that most of the “young looking crowd” that was there, had no idea who KK was.

  6. Luthur says:

    I love how all these talk show hosts are experts on soccer now.

    • Greg Hall says:

      I don’t think KK or Nick Wright were trying to fake being experts on soccer by being at Livestrong on Wednesday. It’s a happening local event (like NASCAR) and they were willing to give it some rare air time yesterday. How hard is soccer to understand anyway? 4-year-olds play it, don’t they?

  7. smartman says:

    The Cauldron folks are a bunch of McLovin’-like D&D players and Harry Potter fans.

    SKC will always have a fan base niche particularly with the GROWING Latino population in the metro. Look for them to acquire more Latino players to cater to that fan base. Add in the Volvo, Subaru, Prius driving, Birkenstock wearing peaceniks and they’ll be fine until The Legends turns into Bannister Mall in 7-10 years. At that point I see bullfighting becoming the new it sport and Nebraska Furniture Mart adding a pawnshop next to Customer Service. La Bamba will be the new theme song for KCK. Livestrong will be rechristened Carnitas y Tortas Field en Jesu Christo Estadia

    • Mark says:

      The NBA is sinking in popularity and the demographics of the United States are changing in ways that will have soccer counting as a major sport in our lifetimes. No surprise – it’s enjoyable to watch.

      And once you get past the mouth-breathing, high school dropout 810 caller mentality (but I repeat myself), it’s an exciting and rewarding game to watch. Couple that with a great local team and possibly the best venue in America, it’s going to remain big in KC for a long time.

      • David Berryhill says:

        NBA had a great season just last season. Soccer can get bigger and there is no relation to basketball’s popularity.

      • The Word says:

        “The NBA is sinking in popularity and the demographics of the United States are changing in ways that will have soccer counting as a major sport in our lifetimes. ”

        Yep soccer will become the No. 1 sport in this country once we fill this country with more and more illegal aliens.

  8. nick says:

    I had to laugh when I heard KK say yesterday that when he looks at the Sporting stadium, all the wonderful details at the park and how the team is run, he can tell that the ownership is NOT in it for the money. He says their only concern is too win and to entertain the fans.

    Um, okay.

    • Greg Hall says:

      Just like I’m sure WHB is simply powered by fans and not commercials. There comes a point when you would expect KK to show at least an iota of respect for his listening audience.

  9. Superfreq says:

    I’m 41 and a season ticket holder for Sporting KC. I have been a fan of Wiz / Wizards / Sporting since ’96. My favorite sports memory is a toss up of Game 6 of the ’85 World Series and the Western Conference final against the LA Galaxy in 2000. My tickets this year were in the South stand GA, but next year I’m moving into the members section aka Cauldron.

    If you are in the middle of it, you can’t help but be caught up in the excitement of the match. What has been really cool to witness is not only the chanting in the cauldron but hearing the entire stadium chanting in unison last night.

    OnGoal is the type of ownership KC deserves. The stadium is first class and not only is Sporting two steps away from it’s 2nd championship, but it’s a very young team as well. Sunday’s match will either be at 4:30 or 8 PM (time will be decided on the results of the LA / NY series this evening.) LA win = 4:30, NY win = 8 PM. I have my ticket already and would encourage anyone to grab one if you can, it will be SRO 19K+ Sunday evening. Come out and support a Kansas City winner.

  10. shecky says:

    I was there last night and agree that crowd skews younger, but there were all kinds of families there as well. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a group as enthusiastic as those in the Cauldron. Particularly last night given the weather. They don’t stop yelling/chanting, ever, during the game. I’m not yet a huge soccer fan, but I do enjoy going out there.

    • Greg Hall says:

      Getting those youngsters involved now — to experience the thrill of winning — will pay dividends down the soccer road. Livestrong just might become what many remember Arrowhead and Kemper being during the heydays of the Chiefs and Comets.

      • shecky says:

        Yes, that’s exactly what I was telling my self last night as I walked through hurricane-like conditions from the parking lot to the stadium. May also be my only chance to show my boys a hometown winner.

  11. rick says:

    Come on Greg best phone call would still have to be Whitlock.

    • Greg Hall says:

      That is a tough one. Whilock’s two calls to Niche were great, great radio…but not outside the norm. JW did just what JW does, he busted out a clown suit on Niche and Niche thanked him for it until he couldn’t take it anymore and hung up on Pork Chop.

      Robb’s call to Kietzman was so outside the norm of how an owner or organization would react to getting slammed by a radio host that I give it the nod over Jason. That said, Whit’s calls were damn fun to listen to.

  12. David Berryhill says:

    What are the odds that 810 does so much SKC stuff as part of an advertising deal? I’m not down on soccer, but I think 810′s attention to the sport is out of whack with the audience. Seems a little fishy to me.

    • KCMonarch says:

      I’ll answer for Greg and say the odds are 100%. KK is a salesman who uses sports talk to fill the dead air time between commercials. If he’s doing a live remote from ANY location, it is because somebody paid him to be there.

  13. newbaum turk says:

    What is this “soccer” people speak of?

  14. Ptolemy says:

    You know…the Comets used to sell out Kemper back in the early 1980′s. Look where soccer went from there.

  15. Merle Tagladucci says:

    I walked by a soccer player one time and the guy dropped to the ground, grabbed his knee and started rolling around like he’d just been hit by a Mac truck.

  16. George Wilson says:

    I’m a season ticket holder and have been going to games since the Wizards were born. I was a little concerned about the crowd last night. At least in my section a lot of the regulars weren’t there and were replaced by what I would call posers. They were there because it was the cool place to be. Based on the behavior I saw, they didn’t have a lot of interest in the game.

    It’s great that the success of the team is attracting more interest. But I fear right now it’s attracting a lot of the type who glom on to whatever is hot at the moment and will move on as quickly to something else as they have to Sporting. I hope some of them stick around for the long term. But you can look at what has happened in many of the markets of MLS and start to get concerned. Colorado is the defending champion, yet their stadium was half empty for the first leg of this playoff round. Columbus, which built a soccer specific stadium and has won the Cup, can’t draw flies.

    As far as dynamic ownership and all that, remember that most of the money for the stadium was put in by the government and that the MLS salary cap is less than $4 million. David Glass and Clark Hunt could both look pretty dynamic if they were handed a $200 million jewel like Sporting Livestrong Park and were restricted to spending $3 million plus on players. As a matter of fact, Hunt’s Dallas team is one of the best and most entertaining teams in the league and includes a likely star of our 2014 World Cup team in Brek Shea. Don’t forget this is the same ownership group who decided Community America Ballpark would be a reasonable place to play soccer until the new stadium was ready.

    So not everything is black and white. I think the ownership group is doing more right than wrong and it is always better to have more people in the park than less. But it wasn’t more than a few months ago that both Kietzman and even Greg Hall were trashing soccer and now they are writing and talking about it glowingly. I am just not sure this is going to grow the way some are predicting. It is happening too fast, and I just think it might be artificial.

  17. brencado says:

    It cracks me up to hear these “I don’t know shit about soccer, but I picked up some pretty cool terminology” broadcasters yapping about soccer. When I hear KK referring to the soccer field as the “pitch” or Bukaty dropping the term “nil”, it makes me ill. Come on already. It is bad enough that the name “Sporting” is a European ripoff….but to call a field the pitch and to say that Sporting lost 1-nil is just goofy.

  18. smartman says:

    Lots of season ticket holders wink-wink nod-nod aka Cerner employees, vendors and the like were STRONG ARMED into buying season tickets. I’ve been offered FREE tickets to every home game since the third home game.
    More people bought tickets because they HAD to, not because they wanted to. It will be interesting to see how attendance holds up or how the mix of the crowd changes next season.

    KK’s brightest moment in my opinion goes back about 7 years ago when he was talking to the RACIN’ BOYS and called the Busch and Cup cars “Nascars” and then made some equally stupid comment about the “Nascars” not having automatic transmissions.

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