Off Limits

Steel yourself: The Denver Broncos may have gotten the last laugh, but not before Pittsburgh had a few yuks at our expense. Last Friday the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offered its "Top ten reasons to be extra thankful for home-field advantage," some too filled with Pittsburghian lingo to translate, but others easily understood even at this elevated altitude. For example: No. 10: "Couldn't take enough grills, generators, port-a-johns and other tailgating stuff to Denver with those tougher airline carry-on rules." No. 9: "Your baggage would just be eaten by their crappy airport anyway." No. 6: "Skiing & football = death." No. 5: "Two words: JonBenet Ramsey." No. 4: "Their music scene died with John Denver." No. 3: "What exactly do they mean by 'Queen City of the Plains'?" and No. 1: "Three words: Rocky Mountain oysters."

Two more words: Ugly coat. Although stadium-seeking Broncos owner Pat Bowlen wisely ditched the furs years ago, he once again hauled out that zippered, black-leather (although it looks like Naugahyde) Superfly coat for the Steelers game. Perhaps it's time for a fashion consult with Fuzzy Zoeller, the politically insensitive (he suggested Tiger Woods eat collard greens and fried chicken after a victory) golfer who's been hired to push a Denver-based golf-apparel firm.

As you may have heard, the Broncos won the playoff game--and the Rocky Mountain News won this round of the newspaper war, with an Extra edition hitting the streets within hours of the victory. Channel 4's ten o'clock audience Sunday night received exactly one minute and six seconds of actual news (the Pope falling, etc.) in an hour-long "newscast" otherwise filled with commercials, weather and...Broncos! But it wasn't just the hometown media succumbing to Broncomania. Monday's Today show ignored the ice storm that had crippled parts of New England and Canada in order to lead its broadcast with the line "John Elway is going back to the Super Bowl." Then, after the obligatory news and weather, the first segment was an interview with...Elway! Clearly, NBC, which is broadcasting the Super Bowl, got its dream matchup for the big game: what's being described as America's real team versus three-time loser Elway looking for one last shot at a championship (and Bowlen looking for that stadium).

Don't touch that dial! On Channel 9's four o'clock newscast later that day, anchor/weatherman Ed Greene shared some early responses to KUSA's Bronco coverage. After relating the complaints of one viewer who said the station was engaging in overkill (how about interrupting The Fugitive to talk with Ron Zappolo on the Bronco plane?), Greene noted that the station had been contacted by two people who thought there hadn't been enough news about the Broncos. Co-anchor Kim Christiansen laughed and said that the only way Channel 9 could offer more coverage was if the station hired more people, because the current staff was already maxed out. Not true! Because following Monday's ten o'clock news, KUSA kicked off the first of its "Bronco updates"--this despite the fact that virtually the entire preceding newscast had consisted of Broncos stories. In introducing the concept, host Zappolo made the perfect Freudian slip, saying that the updates would appear nightly until "the Super Dull, er, Bowl."

The only station showing admirable, if unintentional, restraint was Channel 7, whose truck zipped into Denver International Airport only minutes before the Broncos' plane touched down. The thousands of faithful fans gathered there not only got a glimpse of their heroes, but they received another freebie as well, this one courtesy of Mayor Wellington Webb: During the half-hour or so it took them to clear the DIA tollbooths, parking was free. The biggest winners, of course, were the long-term parkers who just happened to be pulling out of the lots at the same time.

That's the ticket: Football fans weren't the only ones getting a free ride out at the airport. Denver aviation director Jim DeLong, whose love of travel is legendary--especially if he gets to ride on someone else's dime--enjoyed a freebie of his own in connection with another much-hyped event: DIA's success in finally snagging a nonstop flight to London (the flights will allegedly begin sometime in June). When British Airways decided DeLong could be helpful in a scheduled hearing before England's civil aviation authority last month, it rang James and asked if he could pop on over for a visit. DeLong was on vacation at the time but sped directly to the airport to make the trip, which included a $5,300 airline ticket to London and three nights in a first-class hotel with all expenses paid (total tally for the room and incidentals: $1,300). So who paid for DeLong's $7,600 excursion?

Taxpayers regularly bankroll his out-of-town jaunts (in 1995 alone, he flew the friendly skies to the tune of $21,000), but DIA spokesman Chuck Cannon says this latest international safari was covered by British Airways. Not only that, says Cannon, but the frugal DeLong refused BA's offer to go first-class, insisting instead on a mere business-class seat. And when DeLong went to the theater one night, adds Cannon, he even paid for his own ticket.

Now, that's a dedicated public servant!

All Ramsey, all the time: If the Super Bowl weren't enough to focus national attention on Colorado once again, there are those new JonBenet Ramsey revelations in Time (the missing flashlight) and the New Yorker (Boulder DA Alex Hunter dissing the cops). Which means that the Ramsey case--which ranked with Princess Diana and Ellen DeGeneres for the most syndicated and network TV news stories in 1997, according to Video Information Show Report--already has a jump on 1998.

Which also means that even though the Oklahoma City bombing trials are over, Denver-area lawyers will still get plenty of face time. Among the top contenders: former chief deputy Denver district attorney Craig Silverman, whose job as Channel 7's "legal expert" doesn't preclude him from appearing on national TV, or talking with just about any other media outlet about just about anything (last week he wound up discussing skier law), and former Denver district attorney Norm Early, whose career as a yakker was stalled last year by the unfortunate fact that his employer, Lockheed, also owned John Ramsey's Access Graphics. Now that Early's left the company, he's making up for lost time (Monday night he was on Rivera talking Ramsey.) Also in the running is local attorney Larry Pozner.

On a panel back in October, Pozner, president-elect of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, suggested it might be time to set standards for lawyers appearing on television. (For starters, they should ban Gerry Spence from judging the Miss America pageant again.) Although so far there's been little movement on the subject, Pozner says, once he ascends to the group's presidency in August, "the issue is very much going to be discussed: the role of the lawyer as commentator is different from the role as analyst."

And Pozner should know, since he's been an NBC "analyst" working on the two Oklahoma City bombing trials. The network "has thrown massive resources at it," he notes. "They've said from the beginning, this is an issue of American has nothing to do with ratings."

A good thing, too, because JonBenet and Princess Di blew Oklahoma City away in the ratings.

Pressing engagements: If local journalists continue to get in trouble with the law, lawyers are going to be doing a lot more than analysis for media outlets. KCNC/KOA business editor Keith Weinman apparently set a trend earlier this year when he was charged with domestic violence in Boulder County; last week Channel 7 reporter Julie Hayden called in a report from her Highlands Ranch home that she was being stalked by an ex-boyfriend, a Denver cop who reportedly caught her with another cop. While the Denver Post printed Hayden's name--along with her comment that "I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion"--the Rocky Mountain News stayed circumspect.

But then, the News had its own domestic-violence dilemma (which it wrote about, very briefly, in a cryptic January 8 report). Columnist Bill Johnson has been charged with third-degree assault in connection with a December 17 incident in which he allegedly threw his ex-wife (the divorce was final in November) out of her own house and slammed the door on her arm--in front of their two kids, ages three and eight. (Because the children were present, Johnson was also charged with child abuse.) Johnson's lawyer says the charges are unfounded; Johnson's ex stands by her story.

Either way, it won't be easy reading Johnson's next column about battered-women's shelters.

Meanwhile, Post editor Dennis Britton wants his employees to quit leaking information to the competition. The memo reproduced above appeared shortly after last week's Off Limits item on the Jim Armstrong/Jim Saccomano snafu.

War is heck.

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