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Identifying the Kansas City - St. Louis Cultural Divide

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 03:  Kansas City Royals mascot Slugger pumps up the crowd during the game against the Baltimore Orioles on May 3, 2011 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 03: Kansas City Royals mascot Slugger pumps up the crowd during the game against the Baltimore Orioles on May 3, 2011 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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This was posted last year, and there's no time like this weekend to revisit the discussion.

Cardinals-Royals makes sense as a baseball rivalry. The two teams have overlapping territories and famously battled for a World Series title in 1985. Cardinals fans are, like it or not, passionate and loyal, and many of them live next door to beaten-down Royals fans. On its own, it is a very healthy sports rivalry, although not a very even one.

As I've come to learn from years spent talking about these teams online, there's more than one angle to this spat. In fact, awhile back I offered, 8.5 Angles to it. (Get it? 8.5) There's the best fans in baseball cliche that Royals fans hate, there's the losing battle the Royals face across Missouri and there's the interlinked glories of the 1980s, with many similar teams, shared characters, shared uniform styles (don't forget the Cardinals old blue unis) and the 1985 series.

Unlike, say, Rangers-Astros, which is just a group of Texans arguing about which gigantic sprawling sweltering Sun Belt metroplex is more "hell yea Texas, baby!" than the other, many in Missouri deeply believe that there is a true cultural divide between St. Louis and Kansas City. I've seen many theories offered over the years, of varying credulity and verifiability, but theories nonetheless.

I'd like to once again open the floor to you guys, the experts on the topic. Everything below is not meant to be a statement of fact, believed by Party X or Y necessarily, merely theories or biases that get thrown around:

Possible Explanations for the Kansas City-St. Louis divide:

  • Cultural geography: St. Louis is the western most "eastern city." Kansas City is the eastern most "western city." There's a spinoff of this analysis that posits that St. Louis is culturally closer to Chicago (or wants to be), while Kansas City is more aligned with either Oklahoma City-Omaha axis. This is the dynamic of Missouri's unique blend of North/South, East/West, Midwest/South, Rustbelt/Bible Belt mix.
  • Establishment: St. Louis is the older city, so a big brother/little brother dynamic developed.
  • Culture: Related to above, St. Louis is perceived to have more Culture with a capital C, while Kansas City is a cow town.
  • Politics: St. Louis is more liberal, Kansas City is more conservative.
  • Religion & Ethnicity: St. Louis is more Catholic in character, Kansas City more Protestant. There's a sub-argument that St. Louis's Protestants are more mainline, while Kansas City tends to be more evangelical.
  • Snobbery: St. Louis is elitist. Both internally and towards Kansas City. Multiple people on this site attest that which High School you went to is very important in St. Louis, and there is a larger private school/public school divide. Similarly, a frequent complaint is that St. Louis looks down upon Kansas City.
  • The Murder Capital: It comes up in every KC/StL argument at some point. St. Louis is a "murder capital" full or crime and violence. Kansas City is presumed to be safer. The scene from National Lampoon's Vacation, where the Griswolds get lost in St. Louis clearly left its mark. That, or the thousands of stories about urban decay that have ran about cities like St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, etc since the mid-1970s.
  • As you may have noticed, these are mostly reasons why Kansas Citians dislike St. Louis. I'm less well versed in the other side of the debate. On the baseball side, I know that many Cardinals fans truly don't think (or enjoy saying it) that the Royals aren't rivals: the Royals are bad and interleague play is just a gimmick and our rival is the Cubs, end of story. Of course, that attitude annoys Royals fans to no end, which only encourages that aloofness to be played up more. And really, for many it is a lop-sided rivalry. The Cardinals have actually played meaningful games this decade, so the annual trip to the K probably doesn't stand out very much. On this point, I'll actually be stunned if Viva El Birdos does some special Royals/Cardinals post, although I bet just about every Royals blog does. The nerve!

    However, again from an outsider's perspective, Royals-Cardinals clearly is a thing in Missouri. I hear stories all the time about the interactions Royals and Cardinals fans have with each other. You know who really isn't the Cardinals rival? The Mariners or the Angels or the Nationals. There's truly nothing there. Ho-blanking-hum if those two teams play.

    I'm also convinced that there is something to the KC/StL thing, even if it's hard to truly pin down. Perhaps, at some level, it's merely tribalism.

    You all are always great on this topic, so mostly, I'm curious to hear what you think. Let's go.