Friday, February 27, 2009

Remembering The Rocky

We hear the overworn cliché “woven into the fabric of our lives” so much these days. Colorado’s Rocky Mountain News was part of that fabric. 150 years old, it will end its run today, another victim of the changing face of news delivery and a sour economy.

The Rocky thrived at giving the state’s sports fans what they wanted: concise reporting, an easy to read format, stats, some laughs and debate. The section was routinely ranked in the top 10 in the nation.

I have a stack of Rockys that I’ve kept as keepsakes throughout the years (can’t fold up a webpage for a momento can you?) and a bigger memory of old Rocky features.

A smiling Alferd Williams as CU captures their only football national championship is tucked safely away in the attic. Bob Kravitz and his Sunday “half truths” column used to illicit some chuckles. The paper’s campaign to bring baseball to the state in the early 90’s, and finally getting that team. I saw the logo and Rockies’ hat for the first time on the front page.

My roommate in college used to read the sports section at breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. Over and over he would read the same stories. We used to quiz him on the most minute detail from some obscure transaction or game summary, and he would usually nail it.

The Rocky had great headline writers, and sports frequently made page one. A pumped up Yorvit Torrealba circling the bases in the rain with the headline “Pouring It On” was one of my favorites. Just last fall, smiling Buff receiver Josh Smith is carried off on student’s shoulders with the headline “King Of The Mountain” after CU beat West Virginia in prime time.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? I taught my ten year old yellow lab to navigate the freezing mornings and grab my Rocky when it was just too cold for her wussy owner. She obliged but not after tearing off a few pages after refusing to give it back.

Columnist Sam Adams’ trips to a wayward bar in Nebraska for each Buff-Husker game was always a must read the Saturday after Thanksgiving. During every Stanley Cup run the entire paper was redubbed the “Hockey Mountain News” and back in 1996 the stories helped this hockey novice understand a little more about the game. “Roy Hoo!” bellowed the headline as the region won its first championship in 1996 with Lord Stanley's hardware coming to Denver.

A Simple “Yes!” greeted readers as a jubilant Todd Helton celebrated the final out of the 2007 NLCS. “Buffaloed” as CU crushed Nebraska in 2001. “Score!” as the Nuggets brought in Allen Iverson. “Sacked” when CU fired Gary Barnett.

And you can’t talk the Rocky without sports cartoonist Drew Litton. Every Denver sports fan can name their favorite comic of his. John Elway peering in Joe Sakic’s bedroom was a particular classic.

BG Brooks’ coverage of the Colorado Buffs was pure professional, always reporting the straight facts of the going ons in the People’s Republic.

Back in the day, I helped a friend deliver the paper (when paper boys were actually boys, not men in vans) and there was one house that had astroturf on their front patio. We always practiced our best football celebrations while dropping off their Rocky each morning

And yes, the small tabloid style was great for carrying about, reading in cramped spaces, and while in “the library” as many people call the toilet.

The heart and soul of the Rocky sports section was just like the state it covered, the Denver Broncos. Great beat writers, a bevy of stats and color photos. The sadness of the four Super Bowl losses, each one feeling worse as the team, and city, seemed to take their lumps. Then the headline “El-YEA!” blasted as the team won their first Super Bowl and brought a region joy. A couple days later the photo of Elway and Terrell Davis raising the Lombardi Trophy to 650,000 fans in Civic Center Park on a crystal clear Colorado day.

If you look close at the Rocky’s photo of Elway circling Mile High Stadium’s field for the last time after beating the Jets in the AFC Championship in 1999, you can see The Commish following a few steps behind.

It was at McNichols Sports Arena in January 1998 and I was reading The Rocky's story about the Broncos’ playoff victory over the Chiefs. For some reason in mid-story I happened to look up and for the first time gazed upon someone who would change my life forever- the future Mrs. Commish.

Fast forward eleven years later and I have the last Rocky I ever saved with a headline about Carmelo Anthony’s broken hand. Not particularly historic, but to me it was as beautiful day as there ever was and another life changer- the birth of my daughter.

Maybe the “fabric” of our lives is just a little lighter today.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I officially nominate you as poet laureate of Colorado. I've rarely seen nostalgia done so well. Propers.

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