John F. Russell: The drive to win is lacking

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It's disappointing to think that Sunday is here, and I won't be watching the Denver Broncos drive toward another Super Bowl title. But in Steamboat Springs, it's hard to dwell on things like football games.

Unlike Indianapolis and Kansas City, when the football season comes to an end here, we have plenty of things to take our minds off the exploits of overpaid athletes who care more about purchasing their next Hummer than winning a game.

This weekend there was jumping, Nordic combined, Alpine and freestyle skiing to fill the void left by the Broncos' early exit from the playoffs.

It's true that the athletes competing in Steamboat are not making millions of dollars to entertain us -- in most cases, their parents are paying thousands in hopes their children will achieve their goals.

It's also true that the winners of these events will not be household names when the races are over, and it's also a pretty good bet that representatives from Pepsi and Disney World will not be lurking around the base of Howelsen and the Steamboat Ski Area ready to offer a once-in-a-lifetime endorsement deal.

But they should be.

These young athletes display a pure desire to win. It's not clouded by money or personalities. The reasons they compete are as clear as their desire to win.

I would argue that outside of the hype, professional sports offer very little these days. Free agency and million-dollar contracts have taken all the fun out of most professional sports. Teams are so desperate to sign big-name players that they rarely wait for those names to prove themselves on the field.

No wonder it seems that winning titles in professional sports is now more important to the fans than it is to the players on the field. What's the incentive of winning a title for players who earn millions each year? A few more games.

But if you happened to see any of the events in Steamboat this weekend, you know that's not true on the ski jumps and cross country trails at Howelsen Hill or the slopes of Mount Werner.

Hidden in the fabric of amateur winter sports is the reason we all started watching the pros in the first place and the reason most people are drawn to sports.

Sure, some professional athletes have displayed that rare desire to win. I'm still young enough to remember players like John Elway, Barry Sanders and Walter Payton.

But those types of players seem to be fading from the ranks in today's media-driven sports world.

The Broncos' disappointing effort last week was an example of a team and players who lacked that pure desire.

In Steamboat, we are lucky to be surrounded by athletes who are still driven by the desire to win. But don't take my word for it, just jump in the car and head to Howelsen where you can witness it for yourselves.

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