One of my brightest sports memories as a kid was watching Kordell Stewart throw a Hail Mary directly into Michael Westbrook's outstretched arms at Ann Arbor.
I remember when the Colorado Avalanche came out of nowhere and took Denver by storm in their very first season. We stopped school to watch that parade.
Or what about 2007 -- the Cinderella Colorado Rockies went on a ridiculous, unprecedented run and Rocktober swept over Colorado.
What about 2009? The Denver Nuggets demolished the Dallas Mavericks and went all the way to the Western Conference Finals, on the brink of toppling the Los Angeles Lakers. It seems like everyone was watching the game on TV...
On Sunday afternoon, I went to Sports Authority Field at Mile High and watched the Denver Broncos get blown out by the Detroit Lions. I also went to Pepsi Center and watched the Colorado Avalanche squeak out a close victory against a very good Los Angeles Kings team. Since I was going straight to the Pepsi Center from Mile High, I decided to wear my Milan Hejduk jersey to the Broncos game.
As I neared the stadium, I was jeered by multiple Broncos fans. For every one person who said, "Go Avs!", there were ten people who openly mocked my choice of jersey. It was shocking. I live minutes from Sports Authority Field, and grew up idolizing John Elway, Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe...since when did it become bad taste to wear Denver sports gear to a Denver sports event? I've worn Nuggets gear to Rockies games, and Broncos gear to Avalanche games with nothing but support. Yet in this current "A House Divided..." Broncos landscape, anyone and everyone is a potential target for attack.
That's completely wrong.
When did we get so callous as a fan base? When did it become unacceptable to wear Denver sports gear to a Denver sports game? At the game, the crowd itself was divided. Fans in Terrell Davis jerseys yelling at fans in Tebow jerseys, fights breaking out in the stands only to be broken up by police officers, chants of "Let's Go Tebow" starting around the arena, only to be met with firm resistance and a chorus of boos.
At the Pepsi Center, a small (but impassioned) crowd cheered their hearts out for a hard-fought and exciting victory. Despite thousands of empty seats, spontaneous "Let's Go Avs!" chants echoed through the arena, similar to those glorious Cup runs a decade ago. But the empty upper sections still stood out.
Is this really what the Denver sports scene has become?
As a sports city, we've had a rough few years. Carmelo Anthony left town after a year of nothing but painful rumor talks, Jay Cutler, Peyton Hillis, and Brandon Marshall were shipped out in the disastrous Josh McDaniels Era, and Ubaldo Jimenez took the fall for a disappointing Rockies team and signaled the start of yet another "wait for the youth" movement. Let's not even start with the University of Colorado football team.
I'm a Denver sports fan. I don't have a horse in the Tebow debate because I just want the Broncos to play well -- it doesn't matter who is at quarterback. I feel badly for NBA fans who cannot follow their sport without hearing the word "lockout" -- NBA fans deserve to have a chance to cheer for their favorite players. The lack of interest in a very entertaining Avalanche team makes me sad. Why am I suddenly in the minority?
Denver has always been a city that adores a winner. The Avalanche burst into town and won Colorado's first pro championship and we loved them for it. They added another one five years later, and after back to back Denver Broncos Super Bowl victories. Carmelo Anthony rejuvenated a destitute Nuggets organization.The Rockies shockingly went to the World Series.
It's okay to love a winner. It's natural. But we also need to learn some patience with our teams, and with each other. Denver is not alone in that regard, but it's one lesson that we have resisted learning for some time. Billboards pleading for the backup quarterback to start shouldn't be an option here in Colorado. Indifference towards the NBA lockout shouldn't be an option here in Colorado. Ghost towns for Avalanche games shouldn't be an option here in Colorado.
One day, we'll have a good sports team that reignites our passion as a city in positive and productive ways. Perhaps it will be a new-look Nuggets team, or a Rockies team that finally meets expectations. I'll keep attending games because I know that day will happen soon and because these franchises aren't going to fix themselves without the support of the entire community...but with our current behavior as fans, do we really deserve it?