It All Comes Out in the Wash

This city has suffered through Denver Broncos losses far more ignominious than Sunday's debacle. After one Super Bowl blowout, a national newscast reported that this cowtown had never been number one in anything but air pollution -- a charge that had then-Congresswoman Pat Schroeder rushing to Denver's defense, with claims that not only were we tops in vitamin consumption, but we were also home to the world's largest laundromat.

But not for much longer. Smiley's has been sold, and its home in the 1000 block of East Colfax Avenue will soon be redeveloped. So while Denver was still number one in something, Off Limits took a spin past this city's moist famous institution.

At 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, Smiley's was quiet, with just a few early risers coming clean before the big game. The street outside the picture windows was quiet, too: no crack hos fighting over who got the last quarters for a load, no pimps honking and telling them to get back to work or face the DTs. The hum of the washing machines and the occasional clank of the dryer doors was the only sound in the unusually peaceful landmark.

Some folks won't be sorry to see Smiley's go. Rich Grant, communications director for the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, for example. Years ago, when the Today show did a piece on Denver (which had just been named one of the country's most livable cities), it featured Smiley's -- not exactly a tourism booster's dream footage. "By the time I was revived, most of the segment was over," Grant remembers.

Men of steal: Most gridiron geeks agree that turnovers were the key factor in the Broncos' loss to the Steelers -- but the Denver Post fumbled to Pittsburgh long before Jake Plummer got the chance. At about 10:30 a.m. on January 18, four days before to the AFC championship game, the Post's website began defaulting to the sports section of the Post-Gazette, the biggest daily in Pittsburgh.

Proof that Steelers fans were actually stealers? Callers and e-mailers who quickly contacted the Post site were sure of it. "I got a lot of 'You've been hacked!'" recalls Gil Asakawa, executive producer. But turns out, it was Post personnel who dropped the ball. They'd wanted to let readers check out what Pittsburgh scribes were writing about the upcoming game, and rather than simply linking to the Post-Gazette, they tried to set up a more "artful" type of connection, Asakawa explains. Unfortunately,'s software didn't allow it, and as a result, plenty of surfers expecting to see orange and blue wound up cowering before a photograph of lantern-jawed Steelers coach Bill Cowher instead. That's one ugly change of possession.

To their credit, Post staffers corrected their mistake within minutes. The Broncos didn't manage to do so in more than three hours.

Rocky Mountain sigh: The Coors Brewing Co. bought the rights to John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" -- music and lyrics only, not the late folksinger's own crooning -- in time to use the song Sunday, as the soundtrack for footage of failed senatorial candidate Pete Coors strolling past pristine peaks. But by the time the Coors commercial aired, this state's Rocky Mountain high had already gone flat.

Before Coors trots out the tune again, it might want to revamp the lyrics to something more appropriate. Something that reflects just how much reason Denver fans now have to drink, like:

They were born in the summer more than forty years ago
Bringing orange to a place it'd never been before
We left cowtown roots behind us, you might say we were a real big town
You might say the Broncos were bucking for a score.

When they first came to the mountains playoffs were so far away
We were happy just to see the game
But now our hearts are broken and Plummer doesn't seem to care
The team's changing fast and fandom's just not the same...

And it's the Colorado Rocky Mountain cry
We've seen it rainin' interceptions in the sky
The shadow from our last loss is bigger than the Bus's thigh
Rocky Mountain sigh...

Oh, Colorado.

Scene and herd: Elway's was buzzing last Thursday night, as fans came in to load up on food and maybe, just maybe, a glimpse of Number 7 himself. Did John Elway actually run the restaurant, one diner wanted to know. "The only thing he runs up here is his bar tab," the server replied.

On Orange Friday, Mayor John Hickenlooper was pictured kicking it in some very cool red and black Air Jordans, originally released in 1985 and reintroduced twice since. A new pair now sells for several hundred dollars, and a vintage model of size twelves is going for $3,000 on And just where did Hizzoner get his?

From the back of his closet.

"I got them right after the holidays in January 1986," he remembers. "We were waiting to get laid off, and at that time, they seemed like they would have magical powers. That they would have me run faster, jump higher, brew better beer. Except at that time, I didn't know I'd brew beer -- at least not commercially." But while Hick leapt to the top of the political charts seventeen years later, the athletic powers of his Jordans have remained untested. Shortly after he bought them, he twisted his ankle, gave up basketball for tennis and stashed the high tops in the back of the closet.

"They really haven't been worn very much, so they are in very, very good condition," he points out. "They even have the original laces."

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