Year in Review

2001? What 2001?

It was the year no one wants to remember, the year no one will ever forget.

For half a decade, Colorado -- and the rest of the country -- had reveled in high times and good spirits. Even all those predictions of a catastrophic Y2K had come to naught, and 2000 passed without a glitch. We never suspected that 2001, the real start of the millennium, would be the year that those dire predictions would come true.

But even before the events of September 11, anthrax attacks and the slow, settling recession, Denver had received several hints that 2001 would be a year to live in infamy -- and we're not just talking about the Broncos, the Rockies and the Nuggets. The glory days of the 1990s, which seemed to bring new promise to Colorado in every arena, from sporting championships to declining crime to booming business, had come to end.

Patrick Merewether
Patrick Merewether

The high-tech companies on which we'd staked our future, the ones that once symbolized our go-go economy, fell the hardest. Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs were going, going, gone, from the massive communications corporations to the tiny software makers. Qwest, AT&T Broadband, Sun Microsystems, Level 3 Communications, Lucent, Rhythms Netconnections, Liberty Media -- they all suffered. By December, Colorado-based companies of all kinds had announced more than 35,000 total job cuts in 2001. It almost made you feel sorry for that 23-year-old Internet genius down the street whose Lexus SUV is now up on blocks and whose hot tub got repossessed.

Why, even our world-class skiing has lost some of its luster: A good powder day now refers to any day in which the mysterious white stuff in the envelope turns out to be detergent or vanilla pudding mix.

We've lost our depressing but brightly lit place in the national media spotlight. JonBenét Ramsey? Columbine? Timothy McVeigh? They all seem so last century. The Mile High City is no longer the Center of the Universe. Boeing took a pass on Colorado, and Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro bailed out of a hyped appearance at a Hunter Thompson-organized rally to protest the incarceration of Lisl Auman. Hershey Foods Corporation announced that Wheat Ridge's world-famous Jolly Rancher plant would close in 2002 as production is consolidated in Pennsylvania. Hell, even Britney Spears bowed out of a planned concert at Red Rocks; the renowned venue just wasn't big enough for her. Hit us, baby, one more time.

Somewhere between the glorious fireworks that lit up the D&F Tower on New Year's Eve 2000 and the not-so-glorious fireworks that lit up Littleton police phone lines during the opening of the new Aspen Grove shopping center, we lost our way. If only we'd had a beacon, a shining light in the night sky to tell us what to do. Something bright and blue and...wait a minute...oh, it's just the giant Qwest signs over downtown.

Perhaps the real sign of the times was the scope of the hysteria surrounding the opening of the new Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in Lone Tree last spring. The hoopla -- and the lines of people and cars -- made Denver seem like a dirt-road town getting its first stoplight. Seriously. The doughnuts at Safeway taste just as good.

Yes, 2001 was a year to forget. Just ask Mayor Wellington Webb, who botched his decision not to run for the U.S. Senate; state Speaker of the House Doug Dean, who killed his once-promising political career; Terrell Davis, who blew his wholesome image -- and his Campbell's Chunky Soup commercials -- by getting blown at Atlanta's Gold Club; and Denver Botanic Gardens executive director Brinsley Burbidge, whose campaign to raise $40 million for the institution wilted in the sun. After an internal investigation by the nonprofit's board of directors, Burbidge was asked to undergo counseling. The DBG itself weathered numerous other indignities, including layoffs, leaked fundraising memos and a dis by the mayor. At this point, it looks like the only way Burbidge will be able to raise $40 million is by winning Colorado's new Powerball game, which debuted this year.

Oh, and then there was "The Horse," Dan Issel, who provided Denver with one of its most embarrassing moments in recent memory with a tirade aimed at a beer-drinking "Mexican" fan. As a result, Issel is now known as "The Horse's Ass."

None of these characters would mind if we forgot about 2001, and we wouldn't mind forgetting about them.

So, is there anything about 2001 we'd like to remember in 2002? The resolve of the American people in times of trouble. Yes. The flags flying from the backs of garbage trucks and fire trucks. Okay.

But whatever you do, remember to take an alternate route if you usually travel through T-Rex country; remember to stay away from the elephant pen at the Denver Zoo if someone makes a loud noise; and please, please, please remember to take your nail clippers out of your carry-on bags before you head to DIA.

Politically Incorrect

The year began with the Texas Fourteen. No, not the group of convicts who escaped from a Lone Star state prison and killed a Dallas-area cop before finally being found and rounded up in dramatic fashion in Woodland Park in mid-January: That was the Texas Seven.

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