Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
When Metropolitan State College's basketball team won its first NCAA Division II national championship two years ago, it was ranked number one in the country. The Roadrunners grabbed their second title this season from the lowly number-22 spot. That is testament to the skills of fifth-year head coach Mike Dunlap, who preaches impenetrable defense and disciplined shooting. The 'runners finished 29-6 this year, after upsetting defending champion (and old foe) Kentucky Wesleyan in the Division II title game, and the club's top two scorers -- Patrick Mutombo and Luke Kendall -- will return next year. But will Dunlap? Division I schools are more interested than ever in Metro's 44-year-old coaching wizard.
It's no easy task to buoy up the spirits of fans whose on-floor heroes are always getting their butts handed to them. But Rocky the Mountain Lion does it every night -- with astonishing acrobatics, the occasional no-look swish from half court (including one recently with a ball he boldly had Michael Jordan autograph) and a mischievous playfulness that captivates kids and grownups alike. Rocky's three-foot-long lightning-bolt tail is a triumph of the costumer's art, and even if every Nugget now on the roster goes the way of Dikembe Mutombo, the most entertaining pro-sports mascot in the country will endure: He made his debut way back on December 15, 1990, and hasn't lost a step since.
Who says white men can't jump? Not those wags on a University of Northern Colorado intramural basketball team who saw white folks jump all over their idea when the UNC hoopsters named themselves "The Fighting Whites" in protest of the mascot -- a big-beaked caricature of an Indian -- used by nearby Eaton High School's "Fightin' Reds." The Whites' copyright T-shirt designs, including a white male dressed in a suit, soon became red, er, white hot, with orders pouring in to their Web site. Charles Cuny, a Native American, hadn't planned on making a statement when he assembled the multi-racial team. "I just wanted to play basketball on Tuesdays," he explained. White on!
He's got a squirt gun, a knack for doing handstands, and an attitude, and that makes the Colorado Springs Sky Sox mascot, Sox the Fox, now entering his third year, the best minor-league mascot around. In fact, aside from Rocky (whose creator trained one of the two men who don the foxy costume), Sox is the most entertaining mascot in the state. "We love that guy," says Gabe Ross, assistant general manager and public-relations director for the Sky Sox, a Colorado Rockies farm team. "Major-league teams are a little more handcuffed by public opinion, but wobbling around and patting kids on the head can get old pretty quick." Sox has been played by two people, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs student Phil Monday and former Sky Sox grounds-crew employee Chad White, and both will be back next year. Fox in Sox, indeed.
For a school whose students make most Ivy Leaguers look like dopes, the Colorado School of Mines takes a decidedly low-brow approach to its home football games. And even though the Mines eleven once thrashed the University of Colorado (a century ago) and went undefeated as recently as the late 1930s, nobody seems too ambitious on fall Saturdays in Golden. But Mines surprised fans this year, winning more than losing, and normally blasé students had something to kick about. Even though the school's jackass mascot was retired years ago, school spirit's made a comeback. Bray to go!
As if to prove that Santa is everywhere in December, Ocean Journey treated folks to daily underwater Santa shows featuring the jolly one, with beard and hair flowing wildly, flip-flapping his way around in the deep. But we were wondering: Now that the aquarium is treading water, will Santa sleep with the fishes?