Friday, July 27, 2007

Greeley Grinning

Felt like yesterday
When I was a shorty b-boy around the way
Kangol, nylon, Lee suits and Pumas
I had girls from here to Montezuma...


For those of us in the great metro area known as Denver, we are about to be subjected to the annual deluge of media hype/coverage/fluff known as Bronco Training Camp. Like many NFL squads, the Broncos have moved the proceedings to their own facility rather than pack up and head for some remote location at some wayward university.

Count me among the "old schoolers" who miss the old days when the Broncos headed up north for their annual training camp in Greeley, CO. For you non-Coloradoans, Greeley is best known for the punter who stabbed the other puner, and for its pungent aroma due to the city's meat-packing industry. Think "canned fart" smell that's even worse with a strong wind.

Other old schoolers might hark back top the days when training camp started and the endless videotape of players with shopping carts wheeling in their 20" color TVs and in later years their Nintendo/Sega systems. Remember Ron Zappolo, the sports guy? He was to John Elway what Ahmad Rashad was to Michael Jordan. Speaking of Elway, who can forget his knee high striped socks, short Bike shorts, and cut off half shirt, complete with a fresh bowl haircut.

He might be throwing to Ricky Nattiel, who signed a contract after a lunch and jumped into the afternoon scrimmage the same day. Of course he may not play much, as Dan Reeves would bring in 120+ players. Pre-season games would require a long roster or a good memory. Pre-season games would also mean dust, and lots of it from the Denver Bears/Zephyrs/Rockies infield. Reeves would stalk the sideline in his 10 gallon mesh hat, while the players furiously crashed into eachother, something rare these days. On the other side of the field, Reeves' d-coordinator Joe Collier wouldn't be complete without a pad of paper stuck down the front of his pants.

Greeley would always, and I mean always, have hard core thunderstorms at about 4:30 everyday. Training Camp phenoms like Chris Brewer, Blake Ezor, and Joe Dudek, would inspire pretty much no one, although Channel 4's non-stop hype machine would have you believe they were the next Gale Sayers. Those same players and the rest of the team would complain non-stop about the journey up Highway 85 and the tickets they got pegged for. WR Vance Johnson was one; he'd show up with some Prince-like hairdo and you'd have to watch more Channel 4 fluff about his horrendous art.

UNC dorm food, Sammy Winder's Mud Dance, big scaffolding for cameras, kids on the field on their bikes, faded 1977 Super Bowl shirts, a young Mike Shannahan, three ring binders for playbooks, Les Shapiro, big haired groupies, and Clarence Kay in the slammer.

Now things are corporate, stuffy, and Coach Shanny runs the camp down to the millisecond. Air horns are blown, meals are doled out, fans are restricted by yellow-clad guards. It's the ESPN era NFL, big money, bigger egos, big corporations, and a big deal. At least there's not that smell.

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