Tebow Time: The Clock is Ticking

View From Chez Tapeleg

Sports Authority Field, as seen from my apartment. Note how skillfully blocked the Pepsi Center is

Last night, as I left the Pepsi Center after the Colorado Avalanche beat the Washington Capitals, the chant went up.  It wasn’t “Let’s go, Avalanche,” which follows just about every victory.  It’s wasn’t “Capitals suck!” No, it’s something that we tend to hear every weekend in Colorado these days.

“Tebow! Tebow! Tebow!”

They were dressed in Broncos orange and blue, and they were having fun.  But it wasn’t the fight and the goal from Cody McLeod, or the goaltending of J.S. Giguere, or even the better than usual play of the defense that got them going.  It was Tim Tebow.  It was an invasion.

And this wasn’t the first time I hear the chant at the home of the Avalanche.  At the LA Kings game on October 30th, a drunk man behind me, who seemed to know a  bit about hockey, started chanting “Tebow! Tebow!” during the game.  I couldn’t figure out why.

Outside the Pepsi Center, mere steps from the exit, there were men selling “It’s Tebow Time” shirts, surely unlicensed merchandise with his number 15 on the back.  They were making a killing.  The guy across the street selling his Grateful Dead inspired Avalanche shirts must have been drooling with envy.

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The Canadian hockey fan tends to laugh at this kind of thing, and at the fans in a market like Denver, but often don’t understand the culture of the local sports fan in America.  Even in a market like Toronto, where there are four major sports represented (and I am counting the CFL as a major sport, because it is in Canada), and a few minor ones, hockey is still king.  This year, when the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League won their championship, no one noticed.  Sorry boys, the NHL playoffs are on.

Head west to cities like Vancouver or even Calgary and Edmonton, and you have two major sports and one or two smaller ones, as well as plenty of junior hockey.  Fans of the CFL are fairly passionate about their teams, but when the Calgary Stampede practice in a field (and I mean field as in expanse of grass, not football field) just outside their stadium, you know where the sports dollars are going.

In places like Colorado, where there is an over-saturated sports market, you have to pick your poison.  All four major sports are represented, along with indoor and outdoor lacrosse and soccer.  There was arena football, but thankfully that no longer exists here.  Minor league hockey exists to the north (the popular Colorado Eagles of the ECHL), and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (minor league affiliate of the Colorado Rockies)  are to the south.

The sports culture in Denver is a constant rotation from one team to the next, one season to the next.  It creates the local sports fan, the fan who doesn’t care what the sport is, who the team is, so long as they play in Colorado. They can survive a heartbreak from one team because right around the corner, there is another team ready to spark more hope.

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Denver also has a complex.  When you think of Denver, what do you think of?  Exactly, not much.  There isn’t a scene here of any sort, not something culturally to hang our hats on.  When you think of cities like Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, LA, and even Minneapolis, Salt Lake, Detroit, and other larger cities, you get an impression, or a clearer picture of what that city is about, good or bad.

Denver has none of that.  It’s the quiet city that sits on the edge of the mountains.  It’s big enough to warrant attention, but rarely gets it.  It’s the MLS soccer of the United States.  It’s great when attention is paid to it, but quickly fades from memory.

And keep in mind, I love it here.  I love my city, and think the world of it.  But exciting it is not.

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Tebow Painting

The nation’s attention is captured by Tim Tebow.  I still can’t figure out why, but it’s there.  And here in Colorado, he is the most divisive of people.  There are controversial political figures that don’t garner as much of a love / hate relationship as Tim Tebow.  He currently owns this city.  More people could rattle off his stats than tell you who the current mayor is.

And when the nation’s attention is turned towards Denver, the citizens take it as their own.  The hype has captured the attention of the fans, and when they see the highlights night after night on every sports show, from ESPN to whatever Versus is doing, they get excited.

ESPN dedicated most of a SportsCenter to Tebow recently.  It was laughed at for the most part, but John Buccigross made the point that would ultimately matter to ESPN:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Buccigross/status/146231985394823169″]

Denver Broncos fans have a similar complex to the one Avs fans have had the last few years.  It’s born of anticipated defeat.  Warranted or not, the loser complex exists, and watching players leave for greater success elsewhere has turned Broncos fans into shells of themselves.  The same thing happens with the Colorado Rockies.  That’s just the business of sports, of course.  But being a fan isn’t a business from the fan’s perspective.  It’s love.

So why does the love flow for Tim Tebow?  I wish I could put my finger on it.  I’m a hockey fan.  I do not care for the NFL, baseball can’t hold my attention, and I do not care at all for the NBA.  I love is firmly with the Avalanche.  And while they have a few great young players, it’s still very much a team sport that doesn’t hinge on one person as much as football hinges on a quarterback.  The man at the center is going to garner that attention.

But the attention of a nation?  How does this happen?  And why does it invade the rest of the sports here?

I’ve groused in the past of the hype that Sidney Crosby gets, and how overblown the coverage of him is.  But while Crosby is the face of the NHL, Tim Tebow is just another player.  The NFL doesn’t need a face like the NHL does.  They may have lost Payton Manning (and by extension the Indianapolis Colts), but the business of the NFL doesn’t depend on a single character the way the NHL currently does.

Colorado isn’t unfamiliar with it’s evangelical sports figures, either.  Bill McCartney, former head coach of the University of Colorado Buffaloes, was also the founder of the Promise Keepers, a Christian organization for men that garnered a lot of attention in the state.  At the time, the Buffaloes were playing better than they are now, and as with the sport, so goes the state.

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If there’s one thing the Broncos have going for them, it’s who they put out in front of the fans.  When you look to the management side of the organization, the man who is front and center is former Broncos quarterback John Elway.  Even while some question what his job is with the organization, he is certainly out front and making fans happy.  Turn that around to the Avalanche, and in a similar role you have Joe Sakic.  But if you have seen him lately in connection to an Avs game, buy a lottery ticket, because it’s your lucky day.

The Avalanche have always been lauded for their marketing efforts, and the relative silence of the management team.  This week, some of that silence was broken when the Denver Post sat down with Josh Kroenke, owner or co-owner (depending on how you look at it) of the Avs.  It’s unusual to see this kind of communication from the organization, but perhaps a new era is starting to open up?  Wait and see, but don’t hold your breath.

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What does all of this mean for the sports scene in Colorado, and more important to my own self-interests, what does it mean to the Colorado Avalanche and their business, as well as the culture of the fans?  It’s hard to tell.  If I knew, I would be a marketing super genius.  If Tim Tebow is a flash in the pan, then we could be back to the status quo soon.  But if the national hype machine continues to roll, there could be plenty more to come.

What I do know is that, as a fan of a sport competing for the attention of the local sports fans (and currently losing), I’m ready for it to no longer be Tebow time.  Perhaps when the Broncos start losing again, that time will have passed.

Opening Day for the Denver Outlaws

It’s opening day for the Denver Outlaws, our MLL outdoor lacrosse team. It’s not hockey, but it’s still a lot of fun.

How About Some Baseball?

After driving non-stop to Southaven, MS yesterday to catch the Colorado Eagles get their asses handed to them, I thought I deserved to lollygag a little. If there is any reason to have an iPhone, it’s for the maps. A quick search around Little Rock told me what I was doing for the evening.

Occasionally, I like to take in a minor league baseball game. The parks are fun, the games are decent, the crowds are fun, and the price is right (just check out my $8 seat).

The Arkansas Travelers have a nice following, and a park the style of which people love to complain about these days (the manufactured nostalga). Still, it has comfy seats, good basic food choices, and cheap beer.

They are announcing the starting lineups, and it’s startling to hear the mellow crowd, after the screaming and yelling in hockey.

Let’s go, Travellers.

Avs Done: What Now?

Now that the Avalanche have ended their season so unceremoniously, what now?

Let’s Go, Mammoth:

The Colorado Mammoth of the NLL (National Lacrosse League) start the playoffs Saturday against the Calgary Roughnecks. It’s not hockey, but I like it.

Let’s Go, Eagles:

The Colorado Eagles are already in their playoff series, against the Arizona Sundogs in the Central Hockey League. If the Eagles win, it will be back to back cups, and three in five years of existence.

Let’s Go, Someone:

It’s still the playoffs, and hockey is still alive. It looks like I have to get behind a Pacific Division team for a little while, then I can re-evaluate. It’s still the most exciting time of year.

Let’s Go, Mud Hens:

Being in Florida for the next seven weeks, then on to DC, I will have plenty of opportunity to take in some minor league baseball. Although I would not consider myself a baseball fan, I love going to minor league parks, almost as much as I enjoy going to minor league hockey games.

Let’s Go, Tapeleg:

I have at least one new project I want to get off the ground in the next few months, and will be working towards those goals. I will need a little help, such as possible logo design, but that can wait for now.

Until then, there is hockey left to watch.

Other Sports: Feather Bowling

So, let’s just say you are stuck in Detroit. You have a little time, a car, and a friend or two. What are you going to do? I suggest you go to the Cadieux Cafe for a little feather bowling.

The Cadieux Cafe doesn’t look like much from the outside, nor much from the inside, when you first step in. It is your typical bar, with a Belgian flair to it.
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But step into the back room, and you have something else entirely. Welcome to feather bowling.

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OK, it probably still doesn’t look like much, but let me explain. The game is like Bocce or Curling. You stand at one end of the dirt pit (hey, that’s what it is) with your ball, which looks like a smaller curling stone without a handle and made of wood. The object is to get your ball to stop closest to the target at the other end, in the case here, a feather sticking straight up.

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The person with the closest ball gets the points. You get one point for every ball closest to the feather before the other persons. For instance, this would be worth one point for the red team.

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Since the yellow one is next closest, red only gets one point. Speed can kill in this game, so a steady hand is helpful. We have two basic strategies, either the finesse play, where we roll it up the side of the pit and get a swooping motion, or my preferred defense, shock and awe. Yes, it is exactly what it sound like.

Action Photos!!!
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So, yeah, you can wear a hockey jersey while playing.

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The house rules:

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We play a kind of modified version, where we each take turns. It makes for more smack talk, and a little bit more excitement.

So, what kind of men feather bowl? Belgian men. These men:

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The last guy in the bottom photo is the 2007, 2003, and 1999 Champ. Do not mess with him.

The scoreboard:
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Don’t knock it til you try it. When we found out we would be in Detroit, this was the thing we looked forward to the most. And I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t disappoint. Get to the Cadieux Cafe, it’s worth it.

Map to Cadieux Cafe

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Avs vs. Wild: At Least One Colorado Team Won

Talk about mixed emotions.

The Avs handed the Wild only their second loss in regulation. Mind you, that wasn’t super difficult for the Avs, as the Wild were missing Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra and Niklas Backstrom were all out. I mean, I could have gotten a goal. OK, no, I couldn’t. But Smyth, Svatos, and Wolski could. And did. Budaj had some stellar saves, while Josh Harding was decent in net, but had a goal go in off his melon. Two points against a division foe, it’s hard to complain. The game was decent to watch, but I was distracted, waiting for different game.

On the other end of the scale, in the world of baseball, the Rockies got swept by the Red Sox tonight to win the World Series. To say the Rockies were out matched, out classed, or out worked would have been to miss the series completely. It all came down to pitching, and the Rockies did not perform well enough on either side. The bats were never as hot, nor the arms throwing as well as the previous two series. In the series, the only wild pitch was thrown tonight, the venue didn’t matter, and right to the end, there was belief in the stands. As for the quality of the series, it could have been better. It could have been longer. It could have been a greater battle. It should have been. The Rockies were out played, but still, they showed up. They may have lost hard, but they didn’t just roll over and give up. They made it to the World Series. That alone will be great for baseball in Colorado. It created fans, and it created a new faithful.

Until a few hours ago, I had two baseball jerseys. One Red Sox, and one Rockies. Now, I own only one. I gave the Red Sox one away. I parted with a jersey. Me. I could never wear it again, in Denver, or elsewhere. I will still root on the Sox, in the American League, but even in “defeat”, the Rockies played themselves into my heart. Go Rockies.

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Rockies Win the Wild Card

It isn’t often that I watch an entire baseball game on TV. I love going to one, though. Catching a game at a local minor league park is a perfect way for me to spend an evening off on the road. Last season, we saw the Asheville Tourists, Charlotte Knights, and Memphis Redbirds. And, of course, we watched plenty of Top Ten plays at various bars around the country.

I would not consider myself a “Denver Sports Fan” either. If the Broncos make it to the playoffs, I can not wait for them to take a tumble (Denver is so much more calm in the regular season), and the Nuggets only serve to get in the way of my hockey. If it involves the Crush, Rapids, Broncos, or Nuggets, I glaze over like a deer caught in the wrong party dress at a bah mitzvah.

And yet, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Rockies. Perhaps it is because my mom took to them so quickly, after years of being a die-hard Cubs fan. Maybe it’s because they don’t cost an arm and a leg to see. It could be that they are like a manatee, so quiet and docile. Whatever it may be, I talk about the Rockies in hushed tones, with the reverent respect that one should hold for a baseball team, and it’s dicey relationship with superstition. When you play 162 games in a year, superstition takes hold where it would not in other sports.

Well, tonight, the Rockies played game 163. 163? Yes, they played in the craziest of all baseball games, the wild card playoff game. One game, after your team does the unexpected and ties another team, and you both wind up in the right place at the right time. When that happens, it turns into a cross between Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video, and a high school production of “West Side Story.” You have to dance, you have to fight, and no one knows who will be left standing.

The Rockies, in a game that should have ended an hour and a half earlier, danced the dance, came out with war wounds, and were winners in a game that should have never existed. Matt Holliday, potential MVP of the league, was the dog of the eighth inning, when he took a step the wrong way on a fly ball and scored the tying run. And later, he was the hero of the day, scoring the game winning run in the thirteenth (yes, 13th). And it wasn’t a walk off run, but a carry off, as Holliday slid in to home, and used his face to break the momentum. Cheering turned quickly to concern, and while the TV viewing audience watched Holiday squirm in pain, his team mates, oblivious to what was happening, celebrated like they hadn’t been to the post season since 1995. Oh, wait, the Rockies haven’t.

So I will be following this next series, seven games against the Phillies. You may not read about it here, because this is a hockey blog. But know that I will be watching, and cheering on, the Rockies in the post season.

At least, when I’m not watching the Avalanche.

Go Rockies.

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