These famous people who blamed Colorado's altitude are full of hot air

Former vice president and environmental know-it all Al Gore was probably just trying to help Barack Obama when he suggested during some post-debate analysis that Colorado's high altitude may have been to blame for the president's less-than-stellar performance against Mitt Romney last Wednesday night at the University of Denver.

"I'm going to say something controversial here," Gore said on his own Current TV. "Obama arrived in Denver at 2 p.m. today, just a few hours before the debate started. Romney did his debate prep in Denver. When you go to 5,000 feet, and you only have a few hours to adjust, I don't know...maybe."

Maybe what, Al? Maybe you are comparing the president to a whiny Major League Baseball pitcher or NFL star, or maybe you are comparing him to a formerly drug-addled, nearly eighty-year-old country music star? Or maybe you are suggesting that the President of the United States can't handle a little less oxygen. You should know, Al. You've certainly sucked the air out of plenty of rooms.

Whatever Gore thought he was saying, this certainly wasn't the first time Denver's altitude has been blamed for...something. Just ask opponents of the Denver Broncos and the Denver Nuggets, who are repeatedly reminded, either by a sign outside the locker room or by the PA announcer, that they are a mile high. Or convention-goers, that notoriously rowdy bunch, who become even rowdier when drinking at 5,280 feet.

Other examples:

In August, Willie Nelson, who is 79, bailed out of a Denver Dumb Friends League fundraiser called Lulu's Barkin BBQ, where he was supposed to sing. The country music legend was apparently "suffering from breathing problems due to the high altitude and emphysema," according to an announcement, and briefly hospitalized.

But youngsters can feel the effect, too. In April 2009, 32-year-old Alison Mosshart of the Kills had to go to the hospital while she was recording with fellow musician Jack White. Mosshart canceled her show that night and was diagnosed with altitude sickness.

That same month, UFC fighter Jake Shields won a welterweight bout at the Pepsi Center but was criticized for a somewhat lackluster performance. Afterward, he was quoted as saying, "The altitude definitely slowed my pace down. I felt good, I need to put on a little more weight.... The altitude, I had to pace myself more."

Since 1993, when the Colorado Rockies were born, the altitude has been blamed for everything from bad pitching to home-run derbies and smaller, harder baseballs. In fact, the balls shrivel up so much here that the Rockies invested in their own humidor a few years back. Hard to blame altitude for this season's record-setting suckiness, however, or manager Jim Tracy's departure on Sunday.

And then there was Jack Black of Tenacious D, who nearly fell off the stage in 2001. Here's the report on by then-Westword music editor Laura Bond: "Moments after Tenacious D's Jack Black and Kyle Gass sauntered onto Red Rocks Amphitheatre's massive sandstone stage on Friday, it became clear the portly pair were suffering from what locals refer to as turista asphyxia: the sudden inability to breathe — let alone sing — due to the elevation. Black and Gass huffed and puffed through their opener, requesting the audience's patience as they acclimated to the challenge of performing at a venue more than 6,000 feet higher than their Hollywood home. 'We're from zero altitude,' noted Gass, cradling his oversized acoustic guitar on his equally oversized belly. 'I'm seeing spots. Seriously seeing spots,' said Black."

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