Steamboat Springs The Fourth of July has always been a big holiday in my family.
We get together and take in the annual Fourth of July parade, eat a few burgers and, when they haven't been banned, watch the fireworks that night.
But it wouldn't be the Fourth without softball.
For the past 10 years I've spent at least a part of every holiday weekend at the softball fields cheering for whatever team happens to be in the tournament.
The truth is that I don't really care what team I'm watching as long as I'm at the game.
Softball in Steamboat has given way to the youth movement -- baseball and girls fastpitch. However, for many adults, softball still remains king and the annual Triple Crown Fourth of July tournament is a rite of summer.
It's a great time to head over to Howelsen, purchase a hotdog and Coke from the concession stand and take a seat in the stands for a couple of hours.
For me, the Triple Crown tournament is a dream come true. I've always loved to watch the game and this weekend offers hundreds of opportunities to see some of the top players in the state.
Better yet, it's free.
There are no long, drawn-out pitching duels in slowpitch. In fact, no lead ever seems safe at this level of play.
The cool thing about this tournament is that there are no spoiled players like in professional sports. Players rarely question an umpire's call, and when they do, they are usually warned or kicked out of the game.
Most of the teams that come this weekend will want to win a title, but in most cases the adult players can keep the game in perspective.
For the fans, it's a chance to get a unique view of sports. This tournament is about the game, not the players on the field.
The stars in this game are not paid to play, and on Monday they will all go back to their 9-to-5 jobs.
But for three days, they will entertain anyone who wants to watch them on the dusty infields at Howelsen.
They may not be as talented as the professional athletes we see on television, but these amateurs have something else to offer. They keep the game fresh, and they play for fun. It's refreshing to say the least.
Unfortunately, the days of adult softball in Steamboat are fading and my chances to see amateur sports at this level are limited.
I remember fondly the days when the Fourth of July was just a small part of the softball scene. Back then, it seemed like there was a different adult softball tournament every weekend. The fields were filled with softball teams from across the country and the stands were filled with people who wanted to watch them.
Triple Crown hosted five weeks of adult softball including the Fourth, plus there were a couple of locally run tournaments that filled in the gaps in the summer months.
Those days are gone.
But at least I have the Fourth of July to carry on a holiday tradition I hope never dies.