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The Battle for Grass Creek, Wyoming Begins

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Royals-Mariners is always special. The proximity of the two cities, as well as their long historical rivalry, would alone justify the contempt. When you factor in the nearly annual 1-2 finish the Royals and M's produced in the old AL West (who can forget 1992?) and the countless greats who have shuttled between the two teams what emerges is a battle for the American soul: are you a Mariners fan or a Royals fan?

How you answer that question says everything about you.

And this is why the Gil Meche signing was not only the biggest news in sports this December, it was a cultural and historical event. Gil switching teams altered the emotional state of an entire region. It was a betrayal, it was a new found friend, it was the jilting of a lover and the gaining of a mistress. It was everything.

It divides families, college campuses, marriages and army units. Each side knows just what the other side hates most to hear, and vice versa. Every year ESPN jams the rivalry down our throats, knowing that we'll only beg for more. Mariners fans think the Royal cronies are bandwagonners, while Royals fans think the Mariner supporters are self-important and annoying. The Royals are sleek, corporate, professional and classy. The Mariners are swept by the tides of the sea, romantic, given over to loathing and self-doubt.

Caught in the middle of this culture war is Grass Creek, Wyoming. 945 miles to the northwest, lies the hellhole of Seattle, 948 miles to the southeast, the jewel of the plains, Kansas City. On the southeast outskirts of town, one positively stands astraddle a fault line in the American mind. There is no middle ground and no alternative.

Grass Creek? A Royals town or a M's town? Depends on who you ask.

Towering 5,550 feet above sea level, Grass Creek was founded in the 1860s. Located in Hot Springs County, the population of Grass Creek appears to be unknown, or perhaps, simply unknowable, as the census didn't even take a town reading in 2000. Perhaps Clark E. Mortimore (yes, thats his name), the county coroner would know. He's a proud republican, and I'm glad too. I wouldn't trust a democrat to coronize any dead body in my town. The nearest big town, and the county seat, is Thermopolis, with a population of around 4,000. Apparently only a few hundred people live throughout the rest of Hot Springs County.

With not many young women to go around, the men of Hot Springs County devote their passions to the Royals or Mariners baseball.

Aside from Cheyenne -- i.e. a truck stop on the road to Denver -- all of Wyoming, the wetsern Dakotas and southeastern Montana are battleground areas between the Mariners and Royals. Currently, it looks like the Mariners have retreated from Wyoming in shame, as they have no radio presence there, ceding the territory to the Royals, who proudly blast the truth of life on 93.1 FM in Sundance. That doesn't mean that M's fans don't infest Wyoming, we all certainly know thats the case. They're like roaches, if you see one, that means there are 10 more behind the stove.

The county high school is Hot Springs County H.S., but the hardcores still call it Thermopolis High, they've even got their own unofficial website. If you ever talk to someone who went to Thermopolis High Hot Springs County High School, which I do almost every day, you'd understand the rivalry. Living in KC or Seattle, you really don't. A popular jibe is using the other team's logo cup as your spit cup, slapping a logo on your enemy's truck or making your girlfriend fashion her inevitable lower-back tattoo as a Royals crown or a M's trident. In Thermopolis and Grass Creek, you follow the line of the father, and if you're born a Royals fan, you'll be buried one. No questions asked.

At the annual River Parade in Hot Springs County, Royals and Mariners fans keep their distance. This isn't always the case at the bowling alley though.