When wild-dunking, shot-blocking forward Chris Andersen disappeared from the NBA in 2006 because he tested positive for banned substances, NBA fans surely believed they'd seen the last of the man they called "Birdman." But after two years of banishment, Andersen returned to the league, and last off-season, he wound up back in Denver. Heavily tattooed, overly gelled and apparently substance-free, he's won back the hearts of Nuggets fan with his steady if sometimes spastic play, logging an average of six rebounds, six points and two blocks per game, and filling in a Nuggets puzzle that's close to complete.
Okay, seriously, it's time to get off your ass. But the gym is annoying, running is boring, and drinking heavily does not, sadly, qualify as exercise under today's far-too-stringent norms. So embrace your inner fifth-grader and log on to denver.playcoed.com, where you'll find scores of leagues in sports ranging from the more serious flag football and softball to the free-spirited kickball and dodgeball. And if your friends are too lazy to form a team, you can sign up as a free agent, and a team with similarly lazy friends will add you to its roster. The leagues range in cost but are generally affordable; flag football, for example, costs $300 per team and $35 per individual — plus the cost of all the booze you'll buy after your games. Happy recreating!
At first blush, the Rockies' decision to give Garrett Atkins the equivalent of a $3 million raise for the 2009 season seems screwy, given that his RBI production and batting average are down from their levels during the previous two campaigns. But his digits remain solid — he drove in 99 runs and hit .286 in 2008 — and he's capable of spraying the ball all over the field (and often beyond the wall). Just as important, he's a defensive stalwart and a steady presence in a lineup in which stability is key. With Matt Holliday gone and a pitching staff with far more question marks than exclamation points, the team needs Atkins now more than ever.
Dare we call the new Colorado Springs skatepark the best in Colorado? That's quite an assertion in a state considered to have one of the highest concentrations of quality skate parks in the nation. But skaters, bladers and BMXers have been voting with their wheels since the spot opened in January, and the consensus seems to be "Hell, yeah!" The Springs government did everything right by choosing a great location in the centralized Memorial Park and handing the design and construction to Florida-based builders Team Pain. What they ended up with was a 40,000-square-foot, $1 million outdoor masterpiece packed full of perfectly formed bowls, stairs, rails and wacky little features no one thought of before. Finally, a reason to go to Colorado Springs.
Since this winter's unseasonably warm weather never gave Denver's free Ruby Hill Rail Yard a chance to open, the next best thing to free is Echo Mountain. Even if you missed out on the pre-season sale of $129 season passes, a lift ticket at Echo still won't put you back too much: It's $43 — or $29 if you just want to catch a few late afternoon and evening runs. That's less than half what the Summit County resorts charge, and you'll save a lot on gas and traffic time, too, since Echo is only 35 miles outside of Denver. Yes, it does cater to a core audience of sick riders, but it's also got some excellent groomers — now accessed by a new magic carpet — for kids and transplants to learn on, terrain made even more attractive by the fact that beginner-only lift tickets sell for just $19
The casual hockey watcher knows Haynes best for his epic freakouts following game-winning Avalanche goals — happy events that have been in short supply this season. But despite his reputation, he's far from a one-trick screamer. His knowledge of the game is as wide as it is deep, and he's got an impeccable sense of pace and dynamics. He understands when to speed up, when to slow down, when to shift into overdrive, and when to put it in park, and this aptitude continues to serve him well as the team he's paid to watch plays out the string. The Avs have struggled through their worst season, but Haynes has quietly had his finest.
With the death of the Rocky Mountain News, fiending Broncos fans will need new dealers to get their full fix of Broncos talk. Mile High Report is just the blog for the job. It's consistently populated with detailed, thorough and mostly rational analysis on subjects interesting and mundane, from Brandon Marshall's off-the-field issues to the cover skills of the Raiders' secondary. It's a lively forum for Broncos fans to sound off in, but it's slightly more sane than the rambling in other Broncos forums. And on top of its own analysis, the blog skillfully wrangles coverage of the team from all corners of the country, making it a one-stop shop for all things Broncos.
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It takes a lot to admit you're wrong, but that's what Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien did when he wisely shipped career chemistry-killer Allen Iverson to Detroit in exchange for Denver native Chauncey Billups. Iverson, whom Warkentien brought to the team in December 2006, has helped sink the Pistons. Billups — calm, accurate, and willing to play defense and pass — has helped make the Nuggets relevant. That move, and that move alone, makes Warkentien the best of Denver's sports suits.
The Falcons make more out of less than any college football team in the country. Still, they seemed en route to a disappointing 2008 season until around the midway point, when coach Troy Calhoun handed over the offense to super-frosh Tim Jefferson, whose running and passing abilities regularly left defenses looking rubber-legged. Under Jefferson's leadership, the Falcons went 5-2 — and while they narrowly lost to Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl, they have no reason to feel dejected. After all, Jefferson, who was named the Mountain West freshman of the year by Sporting News, is just getting started.
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True, we'd feel better about praising the Nuggets if the NBA season ended at the halfway point. That way, we could focus on the glorious addition of Chauncey Billups, the belated blossoming of Nene, the return of Kenyon Martin to his pre-Nugs form, the unexpected contributions from players such as Chris "Birdman" Andersen, and so on. After the All-Star break, though, the crew temporarily slipped back to its old ways — especially the ultra-talented Carmelo Anthony, whose game seems to be regressing. The squad remains the cream of Denver's pro-sports franchises — but they should be even creamier.

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