Best Political Statement by a Pro Athlete 2013 | Kenneth Faried supports gay rights | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Kenneth Faried grew up with two loving mothers who married in their home state of New Jersey in 2007. And in January, Faried spoke out in favor of Colorado couples being able to do the same. "Nobody can tell me I can't have two mothers, because I really do," the six-foot-eight-inch basketball player says on a video in which he is sandwiched on a couch between both women. Faried says that while he supports civil unions, he'd rather see full marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. Well played, Manimal.

Nate Kreckman hasn't always received the attention he's deserved for being one of the most entertaining sports-radio personalities in Denver. Likewise, partner Charles Johnson has occasionally been dismissed as a walking, talking advertisement for University of Colorado athletics. But their partnership is finally earning notice, and not just locally, but beyond: Their interview with ex-CU tight end Nick Kasa, in which he revealed inappropriate questions about sexuality put to him during the NFL combine, generated headlines nationwide. Still, perhaps the main reason to tune in is because of their easy camaraderie. They seem to genuinely enjoy spending time ribbing each other while they gab about sports — and fortunately, the rest of us are invited to take part.

The Loops bike ride is always on. Hosted by musician, graphic designer and cycling enthusiast Broox Pulford, the weekly cruise for fixies is open to anyone interested in a fun, all-levels group ride. Loops meets up at Crema Coffee House every Tuesday night around 7 p.m. before taking off on a pre-determined route of streets and paths picked by Pulford. And rain, sleet or snow won't stop this party, as the focus is on getting to know the city in any kind of climate. Costumes are not required, and road safety rules definitely apply for any Loops participant — but breaks are encouraged for riders to get acquainted with each other and for comfort on longer rides.

Deshorn Brown is a rookie and the season is young, so only time will tell if he lives up to his potential. But he's certainly off to a quick start, showing himself to be fast, smart and exciting, with a nose for the net: Early on, he's led the team in most offensive categories, including shots and shots on goal. He wasn't supposed to get this much playing time so soon, but why would anyone want him to remain on the sidelines? Plus, the chemistry he appears to be developing with fellow rookie Dillon Powers bodes well for a fruitful future.

We know, we know: CarGo's stats fell off in a significant way between 2011 and 2012, when his batting average went from an extraordinary .333 to a pedestrian .259. But whether or not his production reduction had to do with pressure he put on himself after signing a huge contract, he's still the most complete player on the Rockies' roster, with the sort of upside boasted by few current players. That's why we expect him to bounce back in a big way this season — and if he brings a few of his teammates with him, maybe the Rox won't continue to be a National League bottom-feeder in 2013.

Beth "Fiona Grapple" Bandimere is a blocker for the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls' Sugar Kill Gang and team captain of the 5280 Fight Club all-star squad, and already has a national roller derby championship title to show for herself. Her nom de derby channels mid-'90s malcontent Fiona Apple, rather obviously, but also captures the full spirit of fighting for every inch on the track, which Ms. Grapple, a bludgeon of a blocker, embodies as well as anybody. This year, however, thanks to the reductive reality-TV shorthand of CBS's The Amazing Race, Bandimere and her 5280 Fight Club teammate Mona "Triple Shot Misto" Egender came to be known as the "Roller Derby Moms," a pair of clean-cut competitors, each with three kids, who held their own on the show.

The Denver Roller Dolls imported jammer Sandrine "Francey Pants" Rangeon — a former ice hockey player for the French national team — from the Montreal Roller Derby league in 2012, and just in time. She helped lead the Dolls' Mile High Club to the Women's Flat Track Derby Association's West Region Playoffs in September, where she set a record for the highest scoring jam in post-season competition. Then she outdid herself at Nationals with an astounding 44-0 jam against the Texas Rollergirls' Texecutioners, and helped the Mile High Club finish the tournament in third place. Rangeon won Tournament Jammer MVP honors at Nationals, and the bout — Denver 210 vs. Texas 199 — was later voted Bout of the Year in the Derby News Network's Best of 2012 poll.

There are now eight Colorado-based roller derby leagues sanctioned by the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, and the Denver Roller Dolls was the best of them in 2012, by far: DRD's Mile High Club all-star team took second at the 2012 "Bay of Reckoning" West Region Playoffs in Richmond, California, in September, and third at the 2012 WFTDA National Championships in Atlanta. The team is currently ranked second in the world, according to the new WFTDA rankings calculator. The league, which expanded this year with the addition of a fourth home team, the orange-and-blue-clad Orange Crushers, will also host the new Colorado Cup tournament April 27-28.

Pro skater Rob Dyrdek, founder of the Street League Skateboarding series, stopped by in March to inaugurate the new $1.2 million, 16,800-square-foot Erie Community Skate Park, the first Street League-branded public facility. The skate park, which officially opened in January of this year, has already become a mecca for street skaters. A minimalist masterpiece, it was built by California Skateparks in partnership with SITE Design Group, with an emphasis on street-inspired ledges and rails (rather than bigger and badder bowls). The mirrored design allows equal access for goofy-footed and regular-footed approaches, and the park's features suit beginners and pros alike. A second phase of construction scheduled for this summer is expected to add more beginner-friendly terrain and bring the total square footage to 25,000.

Denver-based Level 1 Productions stepped it up in every sense of the word this year, moving its headquarters out of director Josh Berman's house to more official digs (a new studio and retail space on upper Larimer Street), then releasing Sunny, the best ski film of the season. Berman's thirteenth film in as many years earned him "Best Movie" honors at the 2013 Powder Awards and Best North American Film at the 2012 IF3 International Freeski Film Festival. The film featured twenty top athletes skiing in locales around the world, but we're partial to the sections filmed in Breckenridge and Denver.

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