Rock Bottom

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Dinger must go.

The most embarrassing mascot in the major leagues is a fossil on the field. Dinger should be as dead as a dodo.

Last week, as the Colorado Rockies clinched their place in the playoffs by beating the Padres, a sister who'd been watching the game in New York City — a sister who'd gone to the very first, very cold Rockies game with me and a group of hardy Denverites (including a certain brewpub owner who would go on to become mayor) when this town's brand-new team played the old-school Mets back in 1993 — left a voice-mail message at 10:17 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.


Colorado Rockies

We're watching the game, she said. Here's a question. Is the Colorado Rockies mascot a pentaceratops that turns around behind the plate and wiggles his hands at the opposing pitcher or wiggles his bottom at the pitcher?

We're not drunk, her husband added.

No, we're not drunk, she said. We're just confused.

Who isn't?

What is Dinger still doing here?

According to the Colorado Rockies' A-Z guide, Dinger, who was hatched at the old Mile High Stadium on April 16, 1994, is officially a triceratops — although since the website describes the mascot as "lovable," any information you find there is certainly suspect. The guide is also mum regarding Dinger's gender — perhaps as a touchy-feely tribute to this state's ranking as the sex-change capital of the world, thanks to Trinidad's only growth industry.

But the time for sensitivity is long past. Even without the bottom wiggles, even without the oh-so-out belly shirt, our dinosaur is a true dinosaur. Not to mention musty: The last time I got up-close and personal with Dinger, I thought the purple lint trap could use a good vacuuming.

Still, even with this dinosaur of a mascot, the Rockies swept Philadelphia.

And now they should take Dinger out with the trash. Denver has long been the Sally Field of cities, going all verklempt whenever there's a suggestion that the rest of the country likes us, really likes us. If we're to really rate as a World Series-class city, though, we need a new mascot, and soon.

We need something uniquely our own. Something that truly says Colorado — not "The Rockies are lucky to have avoided a copyright infringement suit," since Dinger is obviously a cheap ripoff of Barney, the purple dinosaur who sang his first "I love you, you love me" two years before Dinger broke out of his shell. Or, even worse, a cheaper ripoff of Baby Bop, Barney's little sister. No wonder Dinger throws like a girl.

Since the Arizona Diamondbacks will soon descend on Denver, there's not a moment to lose. At our blogs, you can sign our petition to ditch Dinger. In the meantime, here are a few suggestions for a suitable (or not) replacement:

You have to crack a few dinosaur eggs to make a successful mascot, and a dancing Denver omelet would surely scramble the senses of the opposing team. Or, in a salute to local inventions, a giant Denver Boot could put them out at first.

For a more manly, mountainous mascot, how about Bronco Travis Henry, who could field his own team with his nine kids by nine women (and who's no doubt ready to go extra innings)? The National Football League's leading rusher was recently stopped cold by a suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy (hey, didn't Denverites vote to make possession of an ounce of pot legal in this city?), which should give Henry plenty of time to blow smoke at those Arizona meth-mongers.

While still at Invesco Field, why not grab the Barrel Man? Already a Colorado icon, he'd suit up nicely if you filled his barrel with Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey, which is brewed right up the street, in the Ballpark neighborhood, and comes complete with a fabulous slogan: "Great Minds Drink Alike." In fact, if it wouldn't conflict with the ballpark's naming deal (and now that Coors has merged with Molson and may soon merge with Miller, we'll be lucky to hold the name at a simple Coors Field), we could just roll out the barrel man and install a dancing whiskey bottle as our mascot, putting the "bombed" back in the Blake Street Bombers.

If the Rockies aren't willing to dump dinosaurs entirely, they could poach from another city institution, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, where paleontologist Kirk Johnson has done so much to raise the museum's profile and popularize his field, including co-writing the just-released book, Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-Mile Paleo Road Trip. Another author is even closer at hand, in section 136: Lew Cady, the author of the 1993 They've Got Rockies in Their Heads, a view of the first season from the fans' perspective, is such a loyal fan himself — and so resolutely Western — that he wore a new purple Western shirt through the playoffs. Without washing it. (No vacuuming required.)

Just down the street from Coors Field is a true living landmark: Jack A. Weil, the 105-year-old inventor of the snap-button Western shirt and the country's oldest active CEO, since he still comes to his Rockmount Ranchwear office every morning. Jack A. is also working overtime as the country's oldest poster boy, as part of the Metro Denver Convention & Visitors Bureau's current "Know What the Locals Know" campaign. A walk down Wazee Street from Coors Field to Rockmount is a trip through layers of history, a great tour through our town for locals and tourists alike. And not a fossil in sight.

For a slightly more spry but still business-like image, there's Dealin' Doug Moreland, another faithful fan with a pompadour more plush than Dinger's hide. I'm sure he'd be willing to haul out that Superman cape, too.

To mock those who just a month ago said the Rockies didn't have a prayer, Jesus could be the answer. Although Clint Hurdle's "God's team" talk has been played down this year, there has to be a reason the Rockies have been playing up...and up...and up.

The Rockies themselves clearly recognize that there are more beloved icons in this city than Dinger. After all, they enlisted the state's star celebrity to kick off Saturday night's game, putting John Elway on the JumboTron to wish the team and the town luck. But with all his business interests, including his own sports team, the Colorado Crush, Elway might not have time to represent for a separate franchise full-time.

Fortunately, there's another sports idol poised to make the move, one who comes not only with adoring fans, but the right name and pedigree: Rocky. The limber mountain lion has been the most consistent reason to watch the Denver Nuggets since he made his debut on the basketball court back in 1990, when Denver was still dreaming of bringing major-league baseball to this town.

And Rocky could eat Baxter, the Diamondback's bobcat, for lunch.

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