In sports circles in Kansas City there seems to be no middle ground on veteran WHB-810 AM talker and owner Kevin Kietzman. People seem to really love him or really, really dislike him.
The only issue that cannot be debated is that Kietzman today is clearly the most powerful sports voice in KC. He has been a force on TV and radio now dating back to 1988 and today when he speaks others listen.
He has organized a walkout at Royals Stadium. He even had a plane fly over Royals Stadium poking the Yankees’ Robinson Cano while his listeners booed loudly during the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby last month after Cano lied about putting a Royals player on the HR roster. When Cano failed to hit a single home run the stadium erupted.
People often forget that during his career Kietzman broke the story of quarterback Joe Montana joining the Chiefs. Or that Missouri was pushing out long-time coach Norm Stewart.
His recent breaking story regarding how the KC Royals have requested nearly $17 million of taxpayer money the past five years from the Kauffman Stadium repair and upkeep fund—but then spent only 9% of the money received on actual repairs and maintenance to the stadium—is such a huge story the Kansas City Star was forced to put it on the front page of today’s paper.
What is ironic is that the Star refused to give credit to Kietzman, the host of the ”Between the Lines” afternoon show (2-6 p.m.) since the 1990′s, for the scoop. Kietzman’s story forced Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders to place an emergency phone call to Royals owner David Glass to discuss the matter.
According to the Star’s Dave Helling and Karen Dillon, Glass and Sanders were going to issue a joint statement about the spending controversy, but “couldn’t reach an agreement by day’s end.”
It is not unusual for Glass, the former head of Walmart, to avoid talking to the media. However, for the politically savvy Sanders to be “unavailable for comment” is a rarity. Sanders has never met a TV camera light he wasn’t attracted to like a moth.
Kietzman was not surprised by the Star’s snub.
“In no way am I surprised the Star didn’t attribute the story to WHB,” he told Bottom Line in an exclusive interview. “They’ve been struggling with survival and the last thing they ever want to do is give any credit to any medium that is more immediate than theirs. The funny part is, they always give credit for national stories to NBC News or something like that and they’ll gladly put in the call letters of any tv station they have a partnership with.”
In fact, even Greg Hall, one of the top sports bloggers in the area has tried to avoid discussing the story or giving Kietzman credit for it.
When a reader suggested (7/1) that Hall write about the major controversy, Hall blew him off.
“I didn’t find KK’s Royals report nearly as titillating as he did,” Hall responded. “It sounds like KK has tapped into a political fight here and is being used by one side to bash the other. I get enough of these one-sided political ads on television and radio this time of the year.”
Does it bother Kietzman not receiving the proper credit for his efforts? Not really.
“As far as personally getting credit, I honestly don’t think about it and don’t really care,” he says. “I’ve reached a point in my career where I’m driven to give something back. I’m not climbing some ladder and I”m not trying to find my next job. I’m not leaving. I realized that 15 years ago shortly after I started this gig.
“So I think about how I can make a difference, it’s hard to to in Sports Talk. But I’ve always tried to swim against the current and do something different than everyone else and hopefully some of these non-traditional sports talk topics can make a difference. We’ll see.”
Kietzman made it very clear to Bottom Line that he is frustrated with Glass and the Royals ownership.
“As for Mr. Glass, he lives in a completely different world than the rest of us. He really does live in a bunker, it’s so sad. He must be miserable. He can’t sit in seats in his own stadium and he’s the most unpopular sports owner the city has ever had.
“I see those Sporting/Cerner owners all over town and they’re happy and they’re committed to this city and they know people and they smile. They’re billionaires but they’re a lot like the rest of us. They love KC and they love what they do,” he says.
“I’m afraid 40 years of living in the Walmart bunker letting his henchmen deliver news of when the next air raid is going to hit has made Glass a jaded, bitter mess. All he thinks about is how to make his next $50 million and doesn’t give a rat’s behind about anything else. I truly feel sorry for him, what a terrible way to live. Lawyers tell him what’s legal and what’s not and that’s how he lives in his bubble. It’s pathetic. It’s a select few people like him that have millions of Americans so frustrated and mad right now. He said he was moving from Arkansas to Kansas 12 years ago but never did. If he’d reconsider, maybe Dorothy could help the Tin Man find a heart.”
Kietzman may not be given the proper credit by other media outlets for uncovering the Royals shady dealings with the County. But it would be hard to debate that he has clearly become the most powerful sports voice in Kansas City.