In the media hype that’s become known, and trademarked, as R***tober, it’s standard to pitch the World Series as something much more profound than a simple baseball match. So let’s up the ante: Tonight’s game will not just begin a seven-game contest between America’s two best baseball teams – it marks the opening salvo in a battle between two vastly different cities and cultures for ultimate Sports Supremacy.
Between the fall of 1995, when Denver became the ninth city with all four major sports, and the summer of 2001, Colorado teams won four championships, celebrating two Super Bowls and two Stanley Cups. Boston has dominated since then, earning three Super Bowl victories and a World Series in 2004. With the possible exception of Chicago (Jordan’s three-peat and the White Sox championship in 2005) and Detroit (three Stanley Cup wins and the Pistons' NBA title in 2004), no two cities have dominated professional sports during the past 12-year stretch (sorry, New Yorkers, the Yankees don’t count). Whichever city wins the series will earn their fifth championship, along with the title Sports City, USA.
But a dominant sports culture may be the only culture we have in common. New Englanders are notoriously uppity and neurotic; Denverites are famously laid back and blasé. The buildings and monuments that populate Boston are among the most historic and honored in America; our skyline is dominated by angular, high-concept architecture, the most notable elements of which are younger than our last sports championship. In Massachusetts, they elect political leaders from proud and ancient aristocracies; in Denver, we elect brewpub moguls.
And, of course, both the city of Boston and the Red Sox team epitomize the self-important grandstanding we mountain-folk refer to as the East-Coast bias. From an early age, Boston schoolchildren are tested on their heroes and landmarks, from Boston Harbor to Paul Revere all the way down to JFK. Out in the schools of Beantown, Colorado history tests - if there are such things - would include the answers Molly Brown, Alfred Packer and Columbine High school.
If this sounds like defensive response from a native of a city with a well-documented inferiority complex, it most certainly is. But the bottom line remains: Boston is one of the most fabled, overexposed cities in America, while Denver is one of the most misunderstood. Which perfectly parallels our two baseball teams.
No longer can Red Sox fans lay claim to the suffering and heartbreak that noisily defined their existence up until three years ago – with a payroll nearly $100 million more than the Rockies, the Sox are now the poster boys for the same salary-capless system they once vehemently railed against (David Ortiz looks a lot like Goliath). Casual sports fans in Denver can name at least three players on the Red Sox, while many people along the Atlantic coast can’t identify the two-hour difference between our time-zones, much less name players on the ‘little Rockies that could.’ The Rockies have turned one of the best months in baseball history into one of the greatest sports stories of the decade, and Colorado still enters the series as the underdog. To many in the bustling metropolis way out East, Denver is still a cow town, our team a JV squad somehow invited to the big dance.
So when you turn on the game tonight, remember that you’re not just rooting for a team – you’re supporting an antiquated ideal, one that says money can’t buy championships. You’re cheering for a city that has 300 sunny days a year and is still stereotyped as snowy and miserable. You’re rooting for a marginalized people in a marginalized time zone.
Of course the World Series is bigger than a game. This one’s for all the beans. -- Mark Schiff