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Tuesday, March 07, 2006 

Why Denver sucks (as a sports city)


So there I was, rolling into the Pepsi Center last Thursday to see my beloved Pistons play. Adrenaline pumping through my veins as 5 of my buddies and I were about to see the Stones take on the Nuggets. As we walk through the door, none of us could help but notice the staggering amount of Detroit gear compared to Nuggets paraphanalia. You saw Pistons jerseys, Pistons t-shirts, Tigers hats, Redwing jerseys, Lions jerseys, Bad Boys T-shirts, Michigan State stuff, U of M stuff... pretty much everything. Detroit gear probably outnumbered Denver gear by a 4-1 ratio.

When the game started, I was shocked at the complete lack of energy from the crowd. When the players were introduced, there as big of a roar for Chauncey Billups as there was for every Nugget save Carmelo Anthony (To be fair, Pistons fans travel well and probably composed 30% of the crowd). As the game went on, there was no energy (I can't emphasize this strongly enough... I mean there was NO ENERGY). Even as the Nuggets were dismantling the Pistons (they won by 11, by the way), fans weren't even getting into it. They would half ass the cheers that the jumbotron told them to do, and couldn't even get excited by the 15 or so alley-oops that Kenyon Martin threw down. Not until about one minute left in the 4th quarter when K-Mart hit a 3 with the shot clock expiring did you actually feel like anybody gave a shit about the game.

During the game, I did my best to try to get a reaction out of these people. I was yelling things like "Reuben Patterson should be in prison!" and "Kenyon Martin can't read!" ... to the tune of little hostile reaction. The only real confrontation occurred when this slimer sitting in front of us started popping his K-Mart jersey when the Nuggets took a 15 point lead, and my buddy Volk Face tells him "act like you've been there before." This guy (who most certainly either works at Wendy's or in a strip mall at a fake leather jacket store) turned around and kept popping his shirt... while his circa 200 lb girlfriend told him to stop. That was it.

As we were leaving, I expected people to talk smack to us, since we were all wearing Pistons / Detroit gear. Not a word. People seemed completely ambivalent. Maybe it's because they knew who the superior team was, maybe it's because they were afraid of the nastiness that is Detroit; but I don't think so. As I was pondering how not even a single Denver fan could say "take that, we kicked your ass tonight!", I think I came to a realization:

Denver Sucks As A Sports City

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Denver sucks. Quite the contrary, I love living out here. Denver/Boulder gets more sun than San Diego (true), it's very clean for a big city, you have access to some of the best skiing / hiking / biking / kayaking / rafting / camping in the world, the people are very nice, there is excellent night life, it's not over crowded... the list of "why Denver is one of the most desirable cities to live in the United States" goes on for a while.

But the sports? A total shocker.

Rockies? Please. I haven't met a single person who even cares about them, much less LIKES them. You see more hats from at least 10 other major league teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Tigers, A's, Dodgers, Twins, Phillies, Giants, Cardinals... off the top of my head) than you see Rockies hats. Given, their hats are ugly as sin and their color scheme is terrible (Black and purple?!), plus their team sucks and the management doesn't care, but I would still expect at least one person to like them. I'm not sure that one person exists.

Nuggets? Not even close. If I brought you from the Midwest (let's say Indiana) and sat you outside the Pepsi Center for 5 minutes last Thursday, and told you "I'll give you $500 if you get this correct: are these people leaving a Nuggets game, or a Phil Collins concert"... you would have gone with Phil Collins. Let's just say that it didn't look or feel like the hometown basketball team recorded it's biggest win of the year by beating the 2-time defending Eastern Conference champs and the team with the best record in the NBA.

Avalanche? Meh. Fans fake like they care. They've won 2 Stanley Cups in the last 10 years, but you couldn't tell by being here. I can walk through the streets of downtown Denver wearing my Stevie Y jersey and nobody will even look at me funny (probably because the Wings swept the Av's this year)

The only team that people seem to care about is the Broncos, and even that is weak. Sure Broncos games are fun to go to, but so is every NFL game. Fans here are VERY fair weather. Nobody really gets into the Broncos unless they have an awesome season (like this year). Last year, the team was very good, made the playoffs, and lost first round. Nobody cared. You couldn't feel "Bronco fever" out here. It wouldn't have made a difference if they were 10-6 or 2-14. People finally got a little excited when they beat the Pats in the playoffs this year. And by that I mean like "how excited your average Pirates fan gets for the opener at PNC Park" excited. And when they lost? No big deal.

Let's compare Denver to some of the "good sports cities" of the United States. In my opinion (and remember, this is highly subjective), some good sports cities in the US are: Boston, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. That list is by no means exhaustive, those are just the first cities that came to my head. My definition for a "good sports city" here is pretty loose, pretty much the only prerequisite being: "fans give a shit about their sports teams and do their best to support them." In these cities, if their team is winning, the whole city is in a better mood. If their team is losing, fans don't react like they don't care, they get upset and angry and want change to happen, so they can get back to their winning ways.

So why does Denver suck as a sports city?

The weather is too nice here. In New York, it gets balls cold in the winter, and unbearably hot in the summer. If you're sitting in your office in downtown New York on a Monday morning in December, and you look outside and realize it's 10 degrees, 20 mph wind, and blowing snow all over the place... the only thing you can tell yourself to keep from committing suicide is "my life sucks... well at least the G-Men won yesterday and I have a Monday Night Football game to watch tonight." On the contrary, that same Monday in downtown Denver, you look outside your office window and it's 50 degrees, the suns out and it's a blue bird day, you're thinking to yourself "man life is sweet." You don't even realize the Broncos play here. This is the same reason why San Diego, Los Angeles, and Miami suck as sports cities.

There is too much to do here. By that, I mean there are too many distractions. You're a 20 something that lives in Chicago. You're working your ass off for a financial company, working 60 hours a week, struggling to make enough money to make rent on your Wrigleyville apartment. Here are your only options to take your mind off your slave-like life: (1) drink. (2) go to the gym. (3) go to a concert. (4) sports. Your life is bleak. You work a 12 hour day, get out of work and go to the gym, then get drunk. The weekend comes around, you get drunk and go to a concert. You keep up with the Cubbies because it's the only thing keeping you from realizing that your life is devastatingly depressing. In Denver? Even if you're having a crappy week, you think "oh well, I'm going to Vail this weekend and am going to ski some of the best mountains in the world." Or "oh well, I'll get out of work today and go take an hour long hike in the beautiful national park near my house." It doesn't matter how the Rockies, or Nuggets, or Broncos, or Avalanche are doing. You live in paradise, sports don't matter. This is the same reason why Seattle and Portland also suck as sports cities.

A complete lack of rivalries. Other places get excited about Yankees vs. Red Sox, Michigan vs. Ohio State, Duke vs. North Carolina, etc. The only rivalries people talk about out here are Broncos/Chiefs and Broncos/Raiders. Give me a break. These "heated" rivalries are roughly comparable to Hope College vs. Alma College women's basketball. Denver is the biggest city in a land area the size of Europe, and it has no enemies. Without enemies, without a neighbor to hate, and without rivalries, it's pretty hard for fans to get passionate about their teams here. Same goes for cities like Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Phoenix.

In good sports cities, if the management sucks, fans get upset. In Detroit, the management for the Lions is atrocious, and you have people marching in the streets with "Fire Millen" signs. In Denver, the management for the Rockies is atrocious, and there is complete apathy.

In good sports cities, fans travel well. When {Pittsburgh came here for the playoffs, you saw tens of thousands of terrible towels in the stands. Last year when the Cardinals came here for a 3 game series, you saw Cards hats everywhere, and the LoDo area of town right by the stadium had bars filled with Cardinals fans. It's intimidating. If you're in Boston do you get scared of Rockies fans when they come into Fenway? If you're in Philly, do you get intimidated by Avalanche fans if they play the Flyers? If you're anywhere, and any Denver team comes to town, you don't have to worry about there being an incident, because Denver fans don't travel well.

I'm sure this article will piss some people off. I'm sure there is an occasional Denver sports fan out there. I've lived in Colorado for close to 2 years now, and I can tell you there is almost a complete lack of passionate fans here. Again, I love living here, I LOVE it. There really isn't another place in the U.S.A. I'd rather be living right now. However, it's glaringly apparent that the sports scene is a joke. You know what? I'd love to hear some backlash from this article. I'd love to hear some passion out of any Denver sports fan, from any sport. Until then, I'm going to continue to claim that Denver sucks as a sports city.

-SEL

I've lived in CO my whole life (22 years) and i've grown up a die-hard Broncos fan. I will give you credit that no-one, at least no-one that i know gives a damn about the rox..games are fun to get drunk and go to but other than that the stands are about 1/10th full. Avs games are fun, and I do think there is a rivalry with the Wings, but maybe it has died down some since Roy retired. The Nuggets were so bad, for so long that I think a lot of the fan base disappeared, but i do see a re-emergence since we drafted 'Melo..Since you have only lived here for 2 years, you never got to experience Broncos football at Mile High Stadium with Elway at QB. I think there are a lot of passionate fans, but Elway WAS the Broncos, and Mile High was the craziest place I have ever seen a sporting event. The place would literally shake. There has been an "identity crisis" since Elway retired, however seeing the AFC championship game in Denver should bring a lot more fans of a new generation out.

As an outsider, it looks to me like Denver is a good football town, but primarily because they got a guy like Elway. I'm not sure how they are since he retired, the commenter Zach would know more.

I will say that losing(Rockies) doesn't help build fandom.

That's weird that the Nuggets' game had a weak crowd, because usually they are pretty into it.

I agree with you on the fact that those cities you mentioned suck as sports cities, but you forgot one huge reason, in the good sports, cities, there are just huge numbers of people who grew up in the area following those teams. Cities like Denver, Phoenix, and the like are growing and full of transplants who like other teams, also they don't have the history that the good sports cities do, you don't have really old fans telling you about going to Forbes Field and the like.
As for your example of the Nuggest game, while the lack of energy is disconcerting, it seems like most of your complaints were about how the fans weren't bigger assholes, maybe you should be more concerned with why you expect Detriot fans to be such huge assholes.

denver must be exactly like washington, dc. im a native philadelphian living in dc and i can say, without a question, that wizards fans suck big-time. i've been to two wizards game this year, one against the sixers and the other against the pacers and the crowd was dead both times. even in the sixers game, which was allegedly a sellout, on mlk day, which the wiz won by 30 or so, the fans did not get off their seats once. no cheering. no clapping. no trash talking. no nothing. if i was still in college and i was looking for a quiet place to study for finals, i would go to the phone booth (what some call the mci, now verizon, center).

however, as far as the redskins fans go, these crazies are legit. and this is coming from a philly guy. redskins fans are nuts.

Can't say that I disagree with anything you've said, but you do know that Billups is from Denver and played for the U of Colorado right? That'd be why he got such a large ovation.

Denverite here, and I've got to disagree. No, Denver sports fans don't have the unbridled passion and venom of New Yorkers, Philadelphians, or Bostonians. But the fans do care - very much so. I completely disagree about your views on Broncos fans - they are among the best and loudest around (and I'm a Seahawks fan, so I'm not biased here). I've been to plenty of Nuggets games where the Pepsi Center (and before that, McNichols Sports Arena) seemed to sway, though it can be inconsistent (you must have come on an off-night - I went to a Nugs-Clippers game earlier this season and you could feel the electricity). It's not that Rockies fans don't exist, or that they don't care about the ineptitude in the front office - rather, they've been driven to apathy by said ineptitude. The Avs are the Avs - the only consistently successful franchise the town has had in the past decade - and people still get up for those games.

So why isn't Denver a top-tier sports town? Because nobody's actually from Denver. There are literally tens of thousands of Denver residents who've come from the different coasts and they've brought their sports loyalties with them. There's still plenty of passion for Denver sports teams, but the fact that so many others in the city have their own loyalty masks it a bit.

You claim to never have met a diehard Denver sports fan. Look for me in the Coors Field bleachers this year - I'll be the guy with the "BICHETTE 10" jersey agonizing over every pitch.

I've lived in Colorado for my whole life as well (24 years). I love every team here, even the Rockies, but i only have ONE other friend who likes them. I think i mostly like them because i love baseball and don't want to jump on any other bandwagons.

Anyway, I do think that this city is extremely fair weather. No one cares unless the team is winning which pisses me off to no end. If you need evidence, go to an Avs game. Half the people there still think Forsberg plays for us and everyone is wearing business attire (high heels, button down shirts, some ties even).

Even though i like the Nuggets a lot, i find it hard to yell or scream during a game because, like you said, there is no energy. It sucks, but i'm not sure what it will take for people to care.

Welcome to my world!

http://www.kevinantcliff.com/?p=57

Another fellow Detroit fan locked here in the Mile High City.

Consider yourself added to my roll.

Denver native here...spent a few years in New England (3 in Boston) so I think I've got a bit of perspective. As a poster mentioned before, there was nothing that compared to the energy at a Broncos game at Mile High Stadium. Unfuckingbelievable atmoshpere. I wholeheartedly agree that Denver as a city is still wallowing in it's post-Elway identity crisis. Elway was that big for the city.

Generally I feel that the current Denver pro-sports environment is suffering from the mega-corporate infused apathy that comes with building new arenas, stadiums, etc. The Pepsi center is inherently lifeless. Sure, it's got a really loud speaker system (which the building managers are all too willing to prove during games), and it's got a bunch of fancy screens, but overall the building sucks. Same goes for Invesco. The other problem with these new buildings is that you automatically price out some of the most passionate fans. Anyone remember the South Stands at Mile High? Those were your nutball fans that had passion. Now? The cheapest ticket you can get for an Avs game is $25. This is exactly what the Fleet Center in Boston is like (is it still the Fleet Center, or has it changed names?). I never made it to the Garden, but I'm fairly certain that the Fleet Center doesn't even compare.

As for Coors Field and the Rockies...the stadium is great, but unless that thing is at least 2/3 full, it feels very empty. It's a shame that the Rockies have been so consistently awful (although I've gone on record claiming that the Rockies will make the playoffs this year) because I imagine Coors Field would absolutely kick ass for a playoff series. As it stands now, Coors Field is probably the best venue in the city.

Those are some of my thoughts. So in a sense I agree with you...Denver isn't the sports town (passion wise) that it used to be. Maybe if some of you transplants can adopt the home team things will get better.

Oh yeah...Red Wings Suck.

Josh Eggedy now lives in Colorado, and if he were a sport people would be into him big time.

You're a fucking idiot. Chauncey got a great ovation because he's from Denver, moron. Take your ignorant ass back to 8 Mile and give up your sports tickets to someone who knows sports.

Dude, you spend WAY too much time concerned about sports.

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