Off Limits

Offensive interference: The news that George W. Bush is the Denver Broncos' new No. 1 may have come as a surprise to kicker Jason Elam, who already wears No. 1 on his jersey. And apparently former quarterback John Elway, often rumored to be a potential candidate for elected office, didn't mind giving up his position as the team's leading Republican ("John Elway for President" bumperstickers and all).

The day before Colorado's pointless primary, Bush appeared at the Broncos' training facility at Dove Valley in front of several hundred people -- including grinning coach Mike Shanahan, who sucked up to Bush by presenting him with an official team jersey. Broncos cheerleaders even chanted "No More Gore."

"To me, that was just amazing," says Mike Melanson, deputy director of the Colorado Democratic Party. "I can't imagine they all did it willingly. I can't imagine all the cheerleaders are Republicans." Melanson characterizes the display as a "tremendous annoyance" and says staffers at his office fielded "a lot of phone calls from people and directed them mostly to Broncos headquarters, but we got people who called back saying [the Broncos] had pretty much turned their switchboard off."

Because the anti-donkeys threw their pep rally just as John McCain announced the suspension of his campaign, Bush's remarks -- and his location at the Broncos facility -- were broadcast nationwide. "I would hope the Broncos would give some equal play to Al Gore to even the score," Melanson says. "Actually, I'd rather see them not do this sort of thing." Melanson says he has no problem with individual players or coaches endorsing candidates of either side (for instance, he says Terrell Davis has come out in favor of Gore), but he argues that an organization receiving public funding -- say, for a new stadium -- shouldn't endorse political candidates.

Elam wasn't there, but as a registered Republican, he probably doesn't have to worry about his job. Elway, who snubbed Bill Clinton by refusing the championship trip to the White House three years ago, didn't make the rally, either. "Too busy selling cars," Melanson says -- or perhaps too busy arguing politics with Michael Jordan, his partner in the new online sporting-goods retailer, who made a TV ad for former Democratic candidate/basketball player Bill Bradley. A Broncos spokesman didn't return Westword's call. Too busy watching C-Span, no doubt.

Here Today, gone tomorrow: NBC is already bragging about Katie Couric's almost-exclusive March 20 interview with John and Patsy Ramsey (Barbara Walters's blabfest with the former Boulderites airs three days earlier; Larry King, Dan Glick of Newsweek and Channel 9's Paula Woodward also get a piece of the action). But Patsy has already appeared on Today -- not that the network took any notice of her cameo at the time. Patsy did, however, and wrote about it in a 1996 Christmas letter she sent friends shortly before JonBenét was killed: "On a recent trip to NYC, my friend and I appeared amid the throng of fans on the Today show. Al Roker and Bryant [Gumbel] actually talked to us and we were on camera for a few fleeting moments!"

Another infamous Today walk-on is "Santa" Bill McReynolds, officially cleared by Boulder police of any involvement in JonBenét's death -- but not by the Ramseys, who now list the former University of Colorado journalism professor as a suspect. In January 1997, McReynolds appeared in the crowd outside the studio and was only too happy to chat when that same busybody Roker stuck a mike in his face. Here's the NBC transcript:

Roker: That's your latest -- Santa.

Unidentified Man (McReynolds): Right here.

Roker: You went on a diet.

Man: I did. I lost sixty pounds, Al.

Roker: Wow. That's great!

Man: Uh-huh.

Roker: What's your name, sir?

Man: Santa Claus.

Roker: All right, well, good to see you.

Man: Uh-huh.

Roker: How are things up at the North Pole?

Man: Well, they're fine. I just came back from Spain.

Roker: Ah, very nice.

Man: That's why I got a haircut.

Roker: Very nice. Well, you -- you look fabulous.

Man: My mortal...(unintelligible) is Boulder, Colorado.

Roker: OK. Thank you, Santa. Let's go inside to Matt.

During this insipid exchange, Today staffers inside the studio realized they had a live one -- the Ramsey Santa! -- and hustled Couric out for a real interview. It began with McReynolds demanding, "Can I have a little hug?"

If you have a tip for Off Limits, call Jonathan Shikes at 303-293-3555.


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