Thursday, July 26, 2012

Colorado has passionate fans, results in high attendance at Coors Field

As Peyton Manning took the field for the first time in an orange and blue practice jersey, nearly 4,000 on-lookers cheered.

The Denver Broncos opened training camp, and on a Thursday, a work day for most, passionate fans poured through the gates at Dove Valley to watch the team that hasn't finished above .500 since 2006 stretch and go through the most basic of drills.

Sure, the excitement about Manning coming to town was the big draw, but these fans are eager not for a winning record, but for a title contender. They passionately believe, whether correct or dead wrong, that the Broncos will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans in February.


These are the same fans who pack Coors Field for Colorado Rockies games. They are the same fans who drive 14 hours to Scottsdale to watch the Rockies play in spring training. They are the same fans who root on the Nuggets and Avalanche, regardless of record.

Rockies fans have taken a beating lately for continuing to go to Coors Field, despite a poor product on the field. On a Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Rockies amazingly drew nearly 43,000 fans. Those fans weren't there to wish good luck to former manager Clint Hurdle, who has guided the Pirates to within striking distance of the National League Central, and barring a huge collapse, the team's first winning season since 1993.

The amount of people who continue to go to Coors Field has drawn the ire of some. Many believe that nothing will change at 20th & Blake until the fans demand that ownership puts a better product on the field. However, the only way to voice that opinion is to quit going to games.

The problem isn't Coors Field, and it's excellent atmosphere. It isn't clueless baseball fans who text in to Toyota Talk every 6th inning and believe the team will be in the World Series by year's end. The Rockies have their fair share of uber-optimistic fans. However, those fans aren't the reason that Coors Field fills up every night.

The reason fans go to baseball games, and every other sport in town is because Denver, and the state of Colorado, falls in love with players, not teams. Fans in Denver root for the team only because they like the players. In cities like Los Angeles, fans aren't fans of individual players on their team, they are fans of the team as a whole. If a player leaves via free agency, they are no longer a Dodger, and therefore, they no longer root for them.

In Colorado, fans cling to their favorite players, rooting for them to do well, regardless of the team results.

There are examples in every sport. Bronco fans were upset that Tim Tebow was displaced as starting quarterback when Peyton Manning, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, was brought in. Despite the clear difference in talent, fans wanted Tebow, not Manning.

It is the same reason that fans were in love with the Blake Street Bombers, despite a lack of success in the wins and losses category. The fans didn't go home mad when the team lost, they went home entertained when Larry Walker, Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla and Ellis Burks hit home runs in the team's 12-10 loss.

The reason fans show up at Coors Field isn't because they think the Rockies can turn it around, it is because they want to see their favorite players play. It is the reason why the idea of replacing Todd Helton is such a touchy subject. In New York, Helton would have been benched after his first two weeks of struggles. In Colorado, it takes two-thirds of the season before anyone is even willing to discuss changing Helton's role on the team.

It might sound like a bad thing, and there are times that it definitely slows the process down when change is necessary. However, it is what makes Denver a great sports town. Instead of running players in and out, giving up on prospects, and trading away talent before it has a chance to develop, fans have a chance to learn the personality of the teams they root for. Those teams are able to form a personality that makes the story that much better when the team actually does succeed.

Of course, in tough times it makes things difficult. The Rockies are so bad that they are tough to watch. Learning about the personalities of Christian Friedrich and Josh Rutledge will have to wait until next year for many fans. However, fans are going to continue to root on their favorite players, wishing success upon them.

Having loyal fans is part of what makes Colorado unique. It is different than the major markets where patience is thin. However, it isn't the worst thing in the world. It just feels that way when the Rockies are on pace for 100 losses and 40,000 fans pay to see them lose on a nightly basis.

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