Best Grass 2002 | Mile High turf sale | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
The stadium turf sale was cleverly advertised with the slogan "Own a piece of Mile High History!" Last October, football fanatics who participated were able to purchase a slab of turf six feet long and eighteen inches wide for a mere $10, providing them with the least-expensive stadium souvenir conceivable. Betcha they never forget to water that part of their lawns.

In what some Mile High Stadium diehards saw as an offering to appease the football gods, dozens of seats caught fire during demolition of the old horseshoe. It seemed like there was still some fight left in the former home of Morton, Elway, et al., and even as crews doused the blaze, warm memories of the past were rekindled.

John Carmona, a Colorado Springs letter carrier, isn't one of the new stadium's neigh-sayers. A season-ticket holder for ten years, Carmona wound up with the best seat in the horse: smack-dab in the eye of the Bronco symbol.

After 37 years in limbo, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame finally found a permanent home by Gate 1 at Invesco Field. This hometown-hero museum doesn't honor just the big names -- although John Elway was somehow chosen in 1999 -- and high school coaches and college athletic directors stand cheek-to-jock with ex-Broncos, including 1977 "Orange Crush" mastermind Joe Collier, who was among this year's inductees. Each year's class ranges from two to six individuals; since the original induction of Byron "Whizzer" White and Jack Dempsey, a total of 163 athletes have joined the roster. The museum is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. most Tuesdays through Saturdays, and admission is free. Guided tours are available for a small fee.

Jefferson County high school students worked for two years to document the construction of the new stadium. The result: The Making of a Stadium, Invesco Field at Mile High, a classic coffee-table tome that documents the entire process; Coach Shanny wrote the intro. The book, which sells for $50 (with profits going to defray the costs of the students' work), is available at local bookstores or by phone at 1-800-456-5206.
While the Denver Broncos' offense sputtered and spit in 2001 -- injuries to wide receiver Ed McCaffrey and running back Terrell Davis didn't help -- swift wideout Rod Smith was the model of consistency. He led the league in catches and served admirably as Brian Griese's go-to guy whenever the young quarterback lost his bearings...or his head. After signing a lucrative new contract this winter, Smith will remain in Denver and, barring injury, remain the linchpin of the Broncos' passing game. No one gets open like Smith, even in double coverage, and no NFL receiver is quite so savvy. He also shrugs off injuries and simply laces 'em up, like any real gamer does.

The NFL schedulers, in their wisdom, decided to make up for the fact that they offered the Broncos as the sacrificial lambs against the mighty St. Louis Rams in their opener. So as a sort of make-good, the NFL gave the Donks their only bye on the week before they play a Monday-night game against the Barf Vadar-led Raiders. Here's to parity, and not parody.

Nick the Pr -- er, Slick, had worn out his welcome with the Nuggets by mid-season. However, in all fairness, the Nuggets had pretty much exhausted the patience of everyone who bothered to watch them in 2001-2002. Still, when the pouty point guard demanded a trade, it was all the Nuggies could to shop him and his multimillion-dollar contract. Finally, Daddy Warbucks, aka Mark Cuban, owner of the Mavericks, stepped up and snatched Van Excel in a flashy package deal. At least Nick's not warming the pines here.

Any ballplayer who will earn more than $150 million in the next nine years had better be worth it, and first baseman Todd Helton fits the bill. Last season -- a misery for the Colorado Rockies -- Helton added a National League batting title and 49 home runs to his resumé, and he is, by a long shot, the most valuable member of the Rockies' Big Four, which includes right-fielder Larry Walker and starters Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle. Helton's long-term contract guarantees stability; his faultless work ethic, superb defense and winning personality guarantee the fans' approval even in off years. He's only 28; he has the highest career batting average (.334) of any present major-leaguer, and the best years of all might still lie ahead.

There are some -- well, many, actually -- grumbling that the Rox' tenth year will be spent chasing their tails before settling comfortably into the cellar again. However, things could turn around, and with a core of players such as Helton, Neagle, Hampton and Walker, a little fielding, some relief pitching and timely hitting could work miracles for the ex-Blake Street Bombers. Perhaps the biggest key will be Zeile's return to third and his ability to stretch for balls down the hot corner. Imagine a great team, then root for them.

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