Now that Super Bowl XLV is in the books, the long odyssey to a new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the players union takes center stage for many fans. If no deal is struck by March 3, the 2011 season is in danger of not happening and it could be a long time until NFL fans see their favorite players on the field again.
But the end of the NFL season also marks the start of something baseball fans have been waiting for since the beginning of November: pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training! And for the Colorado Rockies, they are in a unique position, having started on a particular path since 2007.
We all recall Rocktober, the team winning 21 of 22 games and then flaming out in the World Series. Yes, the loss stung, but there was something embedded in that magical run, more than just the team capturing lightning in a bottle. It was the promise of Rocktober, the bright future of competing for championships.
Championships. They endear a team to a city. The Denver Broncos have two of them in six tries, and Denver is a Broncos-first city. But now is the moment that can change. The Broncos have been on a decline for the last five seasons, bottoming (?) out at 4-12 this past season. Yes, John Elway is back and looking to return the Broncos to days of glory, but the fans must be patient for that to happen.
The Denver Nuggets? It's hard to believe that they'll be competing for championships soon after Carmelo Anthony departs the Mile High City (and it's not as though it's been easy for the current team to compete for a championship). The 2009 run to the Western Conference Finals tantalized us, but there has been little built on from that.
The Colorado Avalanche? Matt Duchene and Chris Stewart are two of the young, budding stars the team has, but as this season has shown so far there remains plenty of room for this team to grow. It will be several seasons before these guys can be considered legitimate contenders for Lord Stanley's Cup.
The Colorado Rapids hold the most recent championship, winning the 2010 MLS Cup. Yet soccer remains a fringe sport. Don't get me wrong, I'm right next to Chris White at Burgundy Wave in supporting the Rapids, but the sport has yet to capture the imagination at large. This coming season will be a great time for the Rapids to increase the public's awareness of the team, provided they compete for the entire season. With the Nuggets in turmoil, the Avalanche struggling and the 2011 NFL season in doubt, the Rapids remain one of two teams poised to dominate the coming months.
The other team, of course, is the Colorado Rockies, and it is time for them to paint the city of Denver purple. The Monforts are building the Rockies brand by signing Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to lucrative long-term deals. There is certainly risk involved in such contracts and they don't add anything that wasn't already going to be on the 2011 team. Yet, it is the message behind those signings that resonates loudly: "We're in this ball game to win it."
While Melo continues to dream of the bright lights of New York and Champ Bailey looks to move elsewhere to pursue that elusive ring he has sought for too long, both Gonzalez and Tulowitzki are committed to winning in Denver. As we learned in Troy Renck's feature on him, Tulowitzki has brought in a prospect to train with him during this offseason and looks to increase that number significantly in the coming years. If that isn't commitment to building a team fans can be proud of, I don't know what is.
Every win, every step closer to the playoffs puts the Rockies on solid footing toward becoming the first sports thought in Denver.
So when you and I and tens of thousands of others are sitting in Coors Field on April 1, let the mystic chords of memory, to borrow a phrase Abraham Lincoln used 150 years ago, bind us together. For every 97-mph fastball Ubaldo Jimenez throws for a strike, for every defensive play Tulo makes, for every home run CarGo hits, for every ball Dexter Fowler glides under for the catch, for every scoop Todd Helton makes at first, the purple-ing of Denver spreads.