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Sat, 04 Feb 2006

The Kansas state quarter
In the 1986 Baseball Abstract, sportswriter Bill James, a Kansas native, included an article titled A History of Being a Kansas City Baseball Fan. The article begins:

I am, and have been for as long as it is possible to remember, a fan of the Kansas City baseball teams. In my youth this required that I support the Kansas City Athletics, the only team in modern history which has never had a .500 or better season.

It goes on from there for about thirty pages, and ends with a detailed account of the Kansas City Royals' victory in the World Series the previous season. My old friend James Kushner once described this article to me as the best piece of sports writing he had ever read. I have not read anywhere near as much sports writing as my friend, but I would also rank it as number one. Like all my favorite writing, it drags in all sorts of fascinating peripheral matters, such as the negative depictions of Kansas in popular culture, and Kansas City's inferiority complex when it compares itself to other cities:

At every insurgence of the national media, Kansas City press packets were handed out repeating a number of overworked boasts about the place. "Kansas City has more fountains than Rome." . . . "Kansas City has more miles of boulevards than Paris." This one always conjures up images of the International Board of Boulevard Certification, walking along saying "No, I'm afraid this one is just an 'Avenue' unless you widen the curb space by four more inches and plant six more trees per half mile." . . . The city's image would improve a lot of they would just accept themselves for what they are, and stop handing out malarkey about how many miles of boulevard they have.

Anyway, the Kansas state quarter was minted last year, and it's my favorite state quarter so far. It's attractive and clean, and clearly represents the state. It features sunflowers and a bison. They're good-looking sunflowers and it's a good-looking bison.

And, unlike most of the other state quarters, it has no extraneous text. No patronizing caption. No vapid mottoes. No "Land of Lincoln" or "Pioneers of Aviation". No cutesy state nickname. No malarkey about how many miles of boulevard. Just "Kansas 1861". The designers let the picture speak for itself. That takes confidence, and I think it paid off.

Good job, Kansans.


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