Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
We didn't need to read Sunset magazine to recognize that Denver has the country's best riverfront. But a visit to the South Platte River wasn't always a day at the beach. Over a century ago, it was "a miserable yellow melancholy stream," according to Mark Twain. "I wouldn't leave it out at night. Some dog might come along and lap it all up." And three decades ago, before the Platte River Greenway Foundation started cleaning up the riverfront, the stretch of the South Platte running through metro Denver was a noxious mess. Today, though, miles of walking/biking/running paths course along its pristine banks, leading you on an urban adventure under viaducts, past arenas and ballfields, and right into the heart of the Central Platte Valley. There, the Platte now anchors a stretch of parks ranging from the Denver Skatepark on the north end to Bee Hive Park on the south, near the new stadium. And thanks to some new public art, we even have a ship's mast reaching out of the valley toward downtown.
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?
Not to be outdone by anyone, the Northern Aurora Business Association ships its Father Christmas in by helicopter, in wind-whipping style, stirring up a racket that no number of flying reindeer could ever hope to make. Each December, Aurora's Santa Claus arrives from the heavens by chopper, with Mrs. Santa in tow, before heading over to Fletcher Plaza to confer with his eager young constituents. Next thing you know, the old guy will be flying a stealth bomber.
Most fans -- and ticket scalpers -- had given up on the idea of a bonanza for the head Washington Wizard's sole visit to the Pepsi Center this season. While the hapless Nugs limped into oblivion, MJ was hobbled following mid-season arthroscopic surgery on his 39-year-old right knee. Still, he suited up on March 20, and while he publicly said he treated the contest like a practice, flashbulbs lit up the return of the twice-retired Airness. Jordan didn't score much, but "ticket brokers" did. Any bets on a third coming next year?
Bikini skiing has been around for awhile, but on March 30, Telluride unwrapped its male version in tandem with its Bikini Slalom. Men dressed in thongs competed for awards while letting just about all of it hang out.
Americans cheered not just Olympic medalists, but those overachievers who ventured where no American ski or blade has gone before. In the latter category: the American men's Nordic relay team, including Coloradan Matt Dayton, whose fourth-place finish brought the team closer to a medal than ever before. For years, Dayton's family has run the Frisco Nordic Center, which offers 43 kilometers of groomed trails for potential Olympians. While the Daytons can't guarantee international glory, they can give you plenty of room to roam.
John Williams's American Journey, a CD on the Sony Classical label, was released in conjunction with the Salt Lake City Olympics; it's kicked off by "Call of the Champions," the official theme of the Winter Games, and the disc features the Olympic insignia on a cover distinguished by a snow-covered mountain. However, the lovely scenery pictured is Mt. Wilson, a crag that can be found in Colorado (near Telluride), not in Utah. According to an article in Salt Lake City's Deseret News, officials from Sony mistakenly believed the photo depicted a portion of the Wasatch Range, but Internet gossips were able to prove otherwise. Give that mountain a gold medal.
Summiting Colorado's fourteeners -- the 55 peaks that rise above 14,000 feet -- has become so trendy that the Saturday crush up a Front Range trail can sweep a hiker along, boots barely touching the ground. So even if you aren't Sir Edmund Hillary's nephew, you can bag two peaks in one day by heading to Grays Peak and Torreys Peak, mountains named for a couple of Harvard dons. Located three miles south of Exit 221 on I-70, the 14,267-foot Torreys is linked by a saddle with Grays, just three feet taller. Depending on the season, it's a fairly easy hike and a fine way to double your bragging rights.