John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Hang around the office long enough, and you just might hear the rumblings about the Colorado sports fan.
In most cases, the description is not flattering.
Some folks in the sports world think sports fans in our beautiful state are a bit fair-weather. Some say sports fans in Colorado are ready to jump on the bandwagon when teams win and the first to jump off when the boat hits a rock.
I don’t know much about wagons or boats, but I have followed a number of Colorado sports teams through good times and bad.
Sure, there always are a few residents who like to cheer for local teams when they're winning but are nowhere to be found when the teams are struggling. But if you go to Denver on any given Sunday during football season, you will find malls and stores packed with fans wearing the Broncos' colors. During the summer, it’s Rockies jerseys. It never really seems to matter if the team is winning or losing — the supporters are there, standing behind their Colorado teams.
What do we have to do to prove we are fans? Do we have to support teams like Texas, which still is waiting for the Rangers to bring home a World Series title, or is the true fan measured by the number of titles a team wins, like, say, Yankees fans in New York?
I fell in love with the Broncos when they still made black-and-white televisions, and the first time I cheered for a team in the NHL, it was the Colorado Rockies back in the early '80s. I was sad when that team moved to New Jersey in 1982, but I had to smile when Major League Baseball came to our great state in 1993 and the name was given new life, and a new team.
Am I a fair-weather fan because I cheer for this new team? Should I still be rooting for the New Jersey Devils?
Sure, I guess fans, including myself, have been a little critical of some of our favorite Colorado teams throughout the years, but that doesn’t mean we are not supporters.
My dad is a lifelong Broncos fan and can be found in front of the television every time the team plays a game in the fall. Like every other sports fan in Colorado, he was thrilled a few years ago when the Broncos brought home back-to-back Super Bowl titles, but my dad doesn’t watch the game just to see his team win.
He also was there long before the Broncos' first Super Bowl. He was there when the Broncos lost the big game in 1977, 1986, 1987 and 1989. He also has been there through the team's most recent string of setbacks. He never lost his faith, and he never dreamed of switching teams.
His dedication doesn’t stop with the Broncos. He rarely misses Nuggets and Rockies games, and he follows the Avalanche despite the fact that he isn’t a huge hockey fan. He followed the University of Colorado’s football and basketball teams long before my sister and I enrolled at the college, and he rarely complains about any of the teams in the state as long as they are entertaining. I think this type or support is pretty typical in the Denver area.
It’s funny how often I hear Colorado sports fans being criticized by the folks who move to our state. Sure, we like to jump on the bandwagon when a team shows promise, but that can be said about any town. I think the best way to gauge our state’s fan base is by the number of empty seats you can find at Coors Field during the latest Colorado Rockies losing streak, by how difficult it is to find a ticket when Detroit comes to town to face the Avalanche or by the number of years you have to be on a waiting list just to get season tickets for the Broncos.
Good luck finding a seat next to one of those fair-weather fans.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com
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