Harold Squared

The local media wielded a purple crayon during the Rockies' unlikely run, leading to an excess of everything but restraint.

On Channel 31's October 28 late newscast, correspondent Leland Vittert presented a hard-hitting exposé on beer — specifically, the oceans of brew consumed by LoDo patrons during a weekend that saw the Colorado Rockies host the Boston Red Sox for two games of the 2007 World Series. After revealing that the Tavern Downtown (or, as he called it, "the Downtown Tavern") moved chairs out of seating areas and served drinks in plastic cups for most of the day in case patrons decided to celebrate by trashing the joint, he tossed to anchor Libby Weaver, who offered the weary rejoinder, "Well, I don't think we need to worry about a riot tonight."

Talk about a colossal understatement. The Rockies' 4-3 loss transformed the Red Sox into hardball kingpins even as it brought the Colorado crew's astonishing late-season surge to a disheartening end. An eight-day layoff dictated in large part by TV schedules crushed the outfit's momentum, just as it did to the favored Detroit Tigers in 2006 following nearly as long a break. These quick defeats suggest that Major League Baseball may be undermining its marquee event by letting the desires of network partners supersede competitive concerns.

Prior to the Red Sox's coup, however, plenty of baseball lovers in these parts had convinced themselves that the Rockies were destined to triumph, since the only fitting conclusion to a fairy tale is a happy ending — and the area media joined in the merriment rather than tempering expectations with a more objective approach. Granted, journalists have a difficult task in such circumstances: They need to reflect the exuberance of the community without being swept up in it themselves or patronizing readers and audiences with faux fandom. Unfortunately, scribes or broadcasters who tried to strike this balance were far outnumbered by those who simply went with the lavender flow.

TV stations led this particular charge, figuratively waving pom-poms every chance they got. On October 16, personnel on Channel 4's morning show appeared wearing T-shirts and other paraphernalia commemorating the Rockies' National League Championship Series win — and every traffic update or weather report came complete with another ration of rah-rah. Luckily, they weren't confronted with horrific breaking news that would have required them to deliver tragic details while dressed like preteen boys bound for summer camp. Then, on that evening's 10 p.m. newscast, anchor Molly Hughes demonstrated her support, as it were, by donning a purple sweater whose coarse fabric failed to adequately cover the underthings beneath. Her chesticles positively glowed in the studio lights, sort of like the alien's heart in E.T. — except there were two of them.

Of course, Hughes wasn't the only television personality to ransack his or her closet for ill-advised purplish garb. In short order, the hue, which also turned up in graphics used by stations like Channel 31 and on the Rocky Mountain News's front-page banner, became the comic equivalent of an American flag pin on a U.S. politician's lapel. During one Channel 9 newscast, anchor Adele Arakawa and weather forecaster Kathy Sabine were decked out in purple from top to bottom, whereas colleague Bob Kendrick got away with nothing more than a purple tie — a situation that seemed patently unfair. At the very least, Kendrick should have been made to wear a '40s-vintage purple zoot suit, with a sweeping, fur-fringed purple pimp hat thrown in for good measure.

Likewise, TV outlets frequently allowed Rockies-related puffery to invade segments usually set aside for news. Note that Channel 9 assigned Adam Schrager, a reporter who concentrates on politics, to create so-called Rockies "baseball cards": minute-long profiles of assorted players that were apparently intended to get viewers who hadn't been paying attention to the squad up to speed. The items were fine in and of themselves, but each of them burned a minute that could have been used for non-sports purposes — and Schrager's work on them pulled him away from his regular duties. The same goes for Jodi Brooks, an outstanding hard-news reporter for Channel 4 (her Katrina coverage was excellent), whose World Series reportage included a roundup about the Boston faithful that found her asking one Red Sox devotee whether or not he wore red socks. Her effort, which ran before game two's outcome was final, concluded with her declaring, "The Series is not over yet. I believe." Eeesh.

For their part, the Rocky and the Denver Post filled lotsa pages prior to the Series' start with Rockies-related ephemera that often received far more prominent play than it deserved. An October 22 Post front-pager headlined "Designated Hugger," about an 82-year-old superfan, represented the nadir, but plenty of other candidates made the contest close.

Then, in the midst of such flotsam, actual news broke in connection with the Rockies online ticket sale. Under ordinary circumstances, the team would have been blistered for its methodology, which gave wealthy Red Sox aficionados nationwide as much of a chance to get tickets as Coloradans. (The success of so many explains why such a boisterous cheer went up at Coors Field when the Rockies recorded their final out in game four.) But matters were made infinitely worse when the system crashed, frustrating tens of thousands.

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