Let’s face it: not every team in MLB can be the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, or New York Yankees. Some of us poor fans are just stuck with the team we know and love whether it’s our hometown team or the one we grew up listening to on our radios when we were supposed to be sleeping.
So it is for Colorado Rockies fans.
For us happy few, the team we love is more often the team we also hate the most if it wasn’t for the Dodgers (for the Dodgers are to be hated above all). We can’t seem to get a break here in the Mile High City. When the team is doing well, a rarity indeed, the national pundits tell us it’s because of the offensive advantage from playing half our games at 5,280 feet of elevation, and the wins shouldn’t really count. When the team is doing poorly, which is most of the time, we are told it’s because the pitching can’t perform at 5,280 feet of elevation, and the losses should be expected. Thus, have the Colorado Rockies become the poster child for low self esteem derived from what George W. Bush once called the “quiet prejudice of low expectations.” (That’s right, I’m quoting W here, so pay attention!). To be a Rockies fan is to expect all the losses, and feel lucky for the wins…because elevation.
This year’s wild ride has been better than most. The club is playing an endearing 60-65 (.480), a tantalizing 7 games off pace for the low-hanging wild card slot. Unlike most seasons, the team is playing games that actually matter…in August! It’s exciting for us in Rockies Nation because this is as good as it gets here. That is to say, “as good as it gets” is the outside chance of a wild card selection and the rarest of rare opportunities to play at least one game of post-season baseball.
It’s not that it hasn’t happened before. There was, of course, the lone NL Pennant, an event without compare in Denver. It was the most exciting time ever in Denver sports: better than the Broncos’ Super Bowl trips, better than the Avalanche’s Stanley Cups ( I also heard there was a basketball team in town). The Rockies improbable run at the pennant that year even had its own name: “Rocktober.” That was cool, very cool. They won 21 of 22 games that month+ including the most exciting game in Rockies history: a single-game play-in vs. the San Diego Padres that ended in spectacular fashion (Holliday was safe and that’s all we have to say about that). After making it to the World Series, the glass slipper broke and the team was swept by the Red Sox in one of the most unremarkable championship series in memory. There were just two other playoff appearances: one in 1995 and another in 2009, both of which were forgettable beat downs reminiscent of some of the Broncos’ great Super Bowl yawners (somewhere, Timmy Smith is still scoring touchdowns against Denver).
Yet, we fans long for another shot. Coming out of this year’s All-Star game, the team caught fire and started pitching lights out baseball through July. They struggled back to .500 and 2 games from that coveted wild card slot. Then came August and a return to normal, a backward slide and, like all the hundreds of times before, the fans quickly progressed through all 5-stages of grief within a day of angry tweets, until they reached acceptance. Acceptance that this team is probably just a little bit better than its last two iterations – they managed to lose 190 games in those two years – but will be relying on luck if they are to play games that matter in October. And if that happens, against all odds, we fans will be there to say “I told you so” to anyone who will listen, which is to say no one. Because if the Rockies do accomplish the unthinkable, everyone will be talking instead of listening, all rising in chorus to make sure we know that it’s all because of the altitude.
*photo credit: (June 29, 2012 – Source: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images North America)