Months ago, Sunday, October 14, probably seemed like an ideal date for the Gridiron Show, the Denver Press Club's highest-profile shindig of the year. After all, it fell during the Denver Broncos' bye week -- meaning that politicians and media figures of the sort who are annually cajoled into participating in the Gridiron's satirical hijinks would have less of an excuse for taking a pass. Hence, the usual percentage of famous folks, including Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, agreed to attend the event, which took place at the Donald Seawell Ballroom, located in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts complex, not knowing that the Colorado Rockies would be hosting the first National League Championship Series game in the state's history at precisely the same time.
Neither Ritter nor Hickenlooper completely blew off their Gridiron pledge, which testifies to the power of the press, or their perception of it. However, they used different approaches when it came to balancing their commitment to the Press Club with their desire to see the Rockies kick some Diamondbacks tail.
Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer, communicating via e-mail, notes that his staff recognized the conflict early on and took pains to ameliorate it. In his words, "We had asked the Gridiron folks last week if the Governor could be early in the program so that he could then get to the game," which was slated to start just past 6:30 p.m. "My understanding is that he appeared at the Gridiron from 7 to 7:15 and then went to the game -- so he was there for [Yorvit] Torrealba's winning home run."
Hickenlooper wasn't so lucky, according to Bruce Goldberg, a Denver Business Journal longtimer who serves as the Press Club's board president. The mayor "took in a couple of innings and then came to the event," where he was to perform a song, Goldberg says. "He had three staffers and several other people who were part of his group, which was called the Better Denver Band." Together, this ensemble unveiled a ditty dubbed "Vote For A Through I," which was sung to the tune of the Village People's immortal "YMCA." They headed back to the stadium shortly thereafter, but not in time to witness Torrealba's big fly. Mayoral spokeswoman Sue Cobb says Hickenlooper thinks the ball cleared the wall at the precise moment he hit a high C -- presumably a reference to a note, not an initiative. As for Goldberg, he learned about the shot heard 'round the town from Hickenlooper aide Tony Young, who served as the Better Denver Band's drummer. Turns out Young was monitoring the contest on his cell phone.
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No, the Press Club didn't wheel a TV set into the Seawell to placate baseball fans wishing they were at Coors Field. Instead, emcee Gloria Neal provided the audience with intermittent updates. Regarding overall attendance, Goldberg says it was a bit lower than organizers had hoped, and he acknowledges that representatives of a few groups who'd purchased tables for the production told him in advance they'd be choosing the national pastime over networking and elbow rubbing. Nevertheless, he stresses that the room was far from empty and predicts that the final take will be in the range of $18,000.
If he's right, this year's Gridiron Show will be the Press Club's most financially successful to date, contributing to an improved fiscal situation for the once struggling institution. When Goldberg took over as board president in March 2006, he reveals that the club was $40,000 in the red. But he says there's presently a $90,000 surplus due largely to income generated by renting out the Press Club for meetings, seminars and even weddings. That makes sense: It's a great space even if there is an artist's rendering of Chuck Green hanging on the wall.
Still, Dreyer seems palpably relieved that Ritter's schedule is free and clear for the October 15 Rockies-Diamondbacks matchup. As he puts it, "My understanding is also that the Governor and the Mayor are going to the game together tonight, and that there will be no running back and forth to any other events!!"
In other words, the diamond is taking precedence over the Gridiron. -- Michael Roberts