Denver, CO

Talk Denver sports like a native

David Heitz

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When you’re a newcomer to a city, you can’t really get a feel for the town until you start following its sports teams.

In Denver, we’re lucky to have all that the world of professional sports has to offer. There’s no better way to connect with a town than to start rooting for the home team.

Trouble is, it can be difficult at first to make small talk with other sports fans. You need to have a little background about the teams and some starting points for conversations.

You need the ultimate newcomer's guide to Denver professional sports.

I'm not a sports genius, so this is a primer

My first job in journalism was working as a sports part-timer at the Quad-City Times in my hometown Davenport, Iowa-Rock Island, Ill. I knew so little about sports that I would have to wait for a game story to move on the wire to know the nicknames of teams.

I didn’t know the team nicknames for the various cities by heart, and the box scores would move only with the city names. One of my duties was to change the city names to the nicknames on the box scores for the Scoreboard page report.

I understand what it means to have sports-smarts that are still under construction. Getting to know the lay of the land in a pro sports town is a great idea before diving in headfirst.

So, here’s a crash course on the Denver pro sports scene. I'm loving this because it's a crash course for me, too.

Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball team

Remember that the Colorado Rockies still are relative newcomers to Major League Baseball, even after 28 seasons. It’s not fair to judge them with the yardsticks of storied teams such as the Chicago Cubs, for example.

The Rockies aren’t a bad team. They last made the playoffs in 2018. The past two seasons they have finished fourth in the National League followed by second in 2018 and third in 2017.

So, there’s a bit of Rockies fatigue among fans right now. What the team has going for it is a vibrant ballpark located at Coors Field.

“The Rooftop is the newest hot spot at Coors Field -- a complete redesign and renovation of the upper right-field seating area and concourse featuring two decks of phenomenal views, premium bars and rentable party spaces,” the website boasts.

The team is owned by the Monfort brothers (Charles and Richard) of Greeley, Colo., heirs to a meatpacking business. Their father, Kenneth, previously owned the family business and the team.

Denver Broncos National Football League Franchise

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Football is a big deal in Denver. So much so that, much like Chicago Bears fans, Broncos fans have become accustomed to what they consider mediocrity. Maybe next year, they say.

Hardcore fans won’t dare utter a negative word about the Broncos’ performance. They finished second in their division in 2019, fourth in 2020 and third in 2018.

Less than hardcore fans have no problem at all pointing out the Broncos’ faults.

But ease up. It’s only been 2015 since the Broncos last won a Super Bowl. Maybe they deserve a little slack.

Fans can be unforgiving after you’ve brought home the big banana. Rooting for a winning team is more fun than rooting for a losing team. If you’ve been a winning team once, your fans expect you to be a winning team forever.

Know that Broncos star John Elway is iconic and maybe only second to God in Denver. He has his hands in everything, from restaurants to car dealerships. Always show Elway respect in conversation.

The team is in the unusual position of being owned by the estate of the previous owner, Pat Bowlen. He owned the Broncos from 1984 to 2018. In later years, the team was managed by a trust. Bowlen died in June 2019.

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The Broncos play at the massive Empower Field at Mile-High Stadium. It has a capacity of almost 80,000 people.

It’s big, just like football in Denver.

Colorado Avalanche National Hockey League affiliate

The Colorado Avalanche is a solid National Hockey League team being played in a legitimate hockey town. The Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets share Ball Arena as their home.

The Avalanche last won the Stanley Cup Championship in 2001.

The team is owned by a woman named Ann Walton Kroenke.

Denver Nuggets National Basketball Association franchise

Besides having Ball Arena in common, the Nuggets and the Avalanche share the team color of powder blue.

But the Avs other half goes burgundy and the Nuggets go gold, of course.

The Denver Nuggets traditionally have been one of Denver’s poorest performing teams, but in recent years they’ve begun to shine. Everyone wants to see the nuggets succeed.

An October 2020 Forbes headline proclaimed, “The Denver Nuggets are ‘Nobody’ No More.’ Continued Improvement is the Next Challenge.”

So, don’t be down on the Nuggets. If you like to root for the little guy who tries hard, the Nuggets are your team.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best local newspapers in the country. Today, I report on Denver City Hall, homelessness and other topics for NewsBreak, much like I did in my twenties covering Newport Beach, Calif. for the Daily Pilot. I consider myself a lucky guy to still be doing what I love after so many years.

Denver, CO
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