Joel Reichenberger: Digital world just doesn't measure up


Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or

Find more columns by Joel here.

— Denver's 16th Street Mall has all the makings of a city hotspot basically devoid of locals - nice hotels, theme restaurants and shopping available in any suburban mall.

The existence of an ESPN Zone, though, adds an element of "tourist trap" the chain restaurants and faux brew pubs otherwise might be able to avoid. Really, is ESPN Zone much different from the Planet Hollywoods I used to beg my parents to take me to?

Somehow, eating a warmed-over $15 cheeseburger in the shadow of the jock strap Sylvester Stallone wore in the first "Rocky" is a concept that seems worthy of the high price and the 45-minute wait only when you're 12 or younger.

And then, you always had to buy a T-shirt every time you stopped in at a Planet Hollywood or Hard Rock Cafe as if to commemorate the day you got punked as bad as an Oakland Raiders draftee.

Still, there's magnetism about such places and, wandering the Denver district on a recent weekend off, I couldn't help but check it out.

Honestly, it wasn't too bad, once you got past the gift shop and up the escalator. TVs that make Steamboat's movie screens look small awaited sports fans, and there surely was enough beer and appetizers to satisfy anyone in search of a game day retreat. It wasn't game day, though, and I wasn't after food or drink.

Instead, I focused on the massive sport bar's wide selection of arcade games and in so doing came to terms with America's obesity problem.

ESPN Zone seemed to have a game for every man's taste.

They had a massive football throwing operation, where you tried to tuck spirals through moving targets 10 and 15 yards down range, and even a bowling game that was about 50 percent the size of a real bowling lane.

Why someone would opt to play on a miniature bowling alley, instead of finding a real one, or play computerized table tennis, I can't answer.

My faith in humanity took another hit when I played a mountain-biking game.

Fresh off a hard day of biking near Fruita, I was on a mountain bike high, but the game seemed to incorporate all of the worst aspects of the sport.

You actually had to pedal your bike, which was hard to do without ramming a knee through the machine. The graphics were terrible - seemingly generated on a Super Nintendo and certainly a far cry from a Colorado River overlook in Fruita.

And the game's bike seat was just as uncomfortable as any other. You'd think a machine specially meant to cater to our laziness in a bar with overstuffed recliners a few feet in front of a movie-screen sized TV would at least have a comfy seat.

I eventually came to the same conclusion about ESPN Zone that I - and apparently the rest of the country - came to about Planet Hollywood: It's just not worth it.

Really, the lesson isn't very complex. Never trust a bar with a gift shop.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.