Time to conclude my tribute to the original Kansas City Comets indoor soccer franchise. First off, a few more misc. reminiscences, then a final overview of my devotion to this team...
ODDS & ENDS
While the Attack drew respectable crowds at Kemper, their numbers never came close to approaching the attendance figures of the Comets, and never once did the Attack sell out a home game in their entire history. The team even changed its name back to Comets in 2001 (while the NPSL cleverly renamed itself the Major Indoor Soccer League—confused yet?), but it made little difference. I like to call this period the “Faux Comets” era, as they were Comets in name only, with a much lamer logo and bland uniforms compared with the originals. Even sillier, the team’s mascot, Fuzzy The Attack Cat, was forced to morph into Fuzzy The Cosmic Cat! During the early ‘00s, owner Donald Kincaid was hopeful of moving the team to a proposed 8,000-seat arena (i.e., lower overhead) in Johnson County, KS that would’ve been similar to the Independence Events Center where the new Missouri Comets now play (minus Fuzzy). But, the mythical Johnson County venue never materialized, and the team ceased operations after the 2004-05 season and hardly anyone even noticed.
I’m still a fan of our current “niche” teams like Major League Soccer’s Kansas City Wiz(ards) and the Missouri Mavericks CHL hockey team, and I’m cautiously excited about the new Comets franchise, but I don’t care to put myself through the agony again of being a “SuperFan”. Having said all that, however, I loved the original Kansas City Comets for a reason—they made us fans truly feel like we were part of the team! I actually felt like I’d be letting them down if I didn’t attend the home games and show my support. As I wrote at the time of their demise, “It was refreshing to see a group of athletes playing their asses off, not worried about who was making more money than who, or how many Ferraris they owned. I’d take one wounded Jan Goossens over a hundred Bo Jacksons any day. When I see people forking out $12 for Yogi Berra’s autograph, it makes me wonder what’s wrong with our society. Comet autographs have always been free, plus you could probably get a handshake and a nice chat, to boot.” There was a purity to this franchise (and league) that just doesn’t exist in sports anymore—it was all about winning and the love of the sport, without all the trappings of ego, exorbitant salaries, steroids, et al.
Just an aside, Comets defender Tom Kain, an up-and-coming young star at the time, abruptly retired from the team during the 1990-91 season. He saw the writing on the wall that the league was in trouble and had a job offer to go to work for Adidas back home in New Jersey. It’s a rather warped commentary about the league that a good young healthy player was forced to take a real job to support his family instead of playing the game he loved. Yet, these guys in the old MISL probably worked as hard—if not harder—than their overpaid NFL, NBA and MLB brethren and easily spent more time out in the community with their own fans than the big-league sports guys did/do. On the day the Comets folded in 1991, it spoke volumes that Kevin Hundelt and Jim Gorsek carried on conducting their Comets-sponsored youth soccer camps—in 100º heat, no less—even though they had both just lost their jobs. Many MISL/MSL players were barely making more money than I did as a working stiff at Boatmen’s Bank—and I was woefully out-of-shape! True, no one forced these guys to take up soccer as a vocation, but somehow, this just didn’t seem right.
Despite their popularity, the Comets certainly had plenty of detractors in this town as well. I often chafed when I read the numerous letters-to-the-editor in the Star criticizing/mocking the team and the sport, and I often wrote rebuttals in defense. There were also short-sighted bozos like the guy who called in on the radio one time who deemed the Comets and MISL, “Just a bunch of foreigners with funny names running around in shorts.” Oh, like funny names are a just reason not to like something. Based on that line of thinking, the NFL (Marty Schottenheimer, anyone?), Major League Baseball (Dale Sveum?), NBA (Detlef Schrempf?) and college basketball (Mike Kryzyzewski?) must have sucked back then too, eh?
Another example of simple-minded thinking is the charming Mongoloid who anonymously commented on my previous post about the Comets and the media: “but indoor soccer sucks. it's not interesting and no one cares...you know...so that's why it always got the short shrift. it sucks. You can almost hear the conversation repeated in every newsroom: 'we're not going to devote much resources to indoor soccer.' 'why not?' 'you know...'cause it sucks and no one is interested. we cover football and baseball because they have leagues with big television contracts. who watches indoor soccer? nobody. little manboys. weirdos.' 'oh.'" Wow, this is Rhodes Scholar material here! And such great sentence structure, too. Must be a University of Hee-Haw grad. Seriously, I never understood all the vitriol heaved at the Comets back in the day, much less now. I never gave a rip about professional boxing or golf or team tennis, but you didn’t see me trying to run Tommy “The Great White Dope” Morrison or Tom Watson or the K.C. Explorers out of town on a rail back in the day. Lighten up, folks—to each his/her own…
[And as I’ve stated before on the blog, I don’t mind dissenting opinions or any reasonable challenge to what I write on here, BUT…if you’re going to criticize what I write, at least have the balls to sign your fucking name to it—I do NOT suffer cowards gladly! Try writing in complete sentences, too, if you want me to take you seriously...]
Curiously, I’ve never been able to get into Arena Football in the same way I embraced indoor soccer. Football needs to be played in a big open (preferably outdoor) space, and Arena Football is too claustrophobic for me—it looks to me like they’re playing in a phone booth! On the other hand, Indoor soccer on a hockey rink makes a lot more sense and is a much better fit. And while it’s true that outdoor soccer is played in a big open space, it’s a freakin’ bore! Like most Americans, I have great difficulty getting into watching 22 guys just trotting around kicking the ball back-and-forth for 90 minutes, with only a scant few scoring opportunities sprinkled in. And what’s up with this tie business?!? Some soccer teams are delirious if they can just finish in a tie! Americans like scoring and they want to see someone win the bloody game—a 0-0 tie just don’t cut the cheese over here. That’s what made/makes indoor soccer so much more appealing to me—it’s fast-paced end-to-end action that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the game, unlike football and baseball with their inherent lulls and stoppages. True, indoor soccer loses a little something on TV (as does hockey), so it’s better viewed in-person, and when the music cranks up, the Rock concert mentality just adds to the intensity of the game.
Another perk about the original MISL was how the league was virtually devoid of prima donnas like Brett Favre, showboaters like Terrell Owens (apart from Tatu, anyway, and even HE was pretty benign) and insatiable egos like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. The rivalries the Comets had with St. Louis, Wichita, San Diego, et al, were both fun and intense, which just added fuel to the fire. I tend to root for the underdog/little guy anyway, and I really thought indoor soccer had a chance to become the fifth major league sport in the U.S. along with the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, so it was quite disappointing when it all fell apart. Several indoor leagues have come and gone since the original MISL died (the CISL, the WISL, the NISL, the PASL, etc.), and for whatever reason, indoor soccer just can’t seem to capitalize on the current rising popularity of World Cup soccer in America, either, so it’s always going to be considered a “niche” sport, unfortunately. Damn shame, because it’s a fun game and far more entertaining (to me, anyway), than the outdoor game, no matter what my “soccer hooligan” friends in England might say. I’ve gradually learned to appreciate the subtle nuances of outdoor soccer, but it’ll never come close to matching the excitement and intensity of the indoor game for me. And it’s the ONLY sport (besides mini-golf, anyway) where I approve of the use of Astroturf!
I hope y’all don’t mind me indulging myself in this little series here, but it’s one I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while now. I also hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series as much as I’ve enjoyed reliving so many great memories while researching this material, many of which I hadn’t thought of in years and some which I’d blotted out altogether, for some strange reason. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, there are numerous MISL video clips out there for your entertainment pleasure. The history of the Wichita Wings series is especially good—hell, I like their highlight reel better than the Comets’! In closing, to the original Kansas City Comets players, coaches, owners and front office folks out there who might be reading this, I send out a hearty salute to you. You were a fine body of men (and women) and I hope I’ve paid proper tribute to this wonderful sports entity. Those “Hot Winter Nights” somehow even managed to make an awkward and star-crossed venue like Kemper Arena feel like home and THE place to be, and they were some of the best times of my life.