Rebuilding…If you’re a sports fan, I don’t know if there is anything worse you can hear about your team. You REBUILD after a house fire, after a hurricane or an earthquake. You only have to REBUILD something after its been destroyed. Maybe that’s why we all hate to hear that it’s a rebuilding year, if the front office of your favorite team took a marketing class once a upon a time they might call it a youth movement. The problem is, here in Denver it seems that our entire sports world is under permanent reconstruction. Maybe I got spoiled in my youth with that stretch of years where it seemed like we had a parade every year. Starting in 1996 with the Avalanche, or 1995 if you want to count the Denver Grizzlies of the IHL, Denver had a major championship in 3 straight years and 4 out of 6 ending again with the Avalanche and their amazing championship run of 2001. The Rockies were still kind of like a new toy in town. They didn’t win a ton, usually a little bit over .500 and they were fun to watch. The Blake Street Bombers were in full effect and Coors Field was shiny and new. Sure the Nuggets stunk but you could still say “hey remember when we beat Seattle as an 8 seed”? Those were the glory days of Denver sports, at least for me. No longer were we the butt of every Super Bowl joke, but we had pride, and the rings to back it up! Reminiscing about our cities past glories makes me feel kind of like the guy in the office who keeps a picture of wife in a bikini from 15 years ago on his desk. Then you meet her at the company picnic and realize the only thing she can use that bikini for now is a napkin. Sure I still have the pictures of John Elway and T.D. up, they’re right next to the ones of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Patrick Roy. Those memories, as special as they are, are not enough! Denver has always been a proud sports town, and we need new tales of sports glories. But unlike the late 90’s, where we built THREE new stadiums in LODO, our teams are now under construction. And have been for some time now.
Don’t get me wrong, I am excited as anyone to see the arrival of Peyton Manning. But until the games are played and WON, he is just another block. Albeit, a very big block, in the rebuilding process. If the Broncos hadn’t gone on the magical run of 7 nail biting wins in 8 games, and backed their way into the playoffs, would brick #18 even be here? Maybe not. One thing is for sure, instead of all the Super Bowl or bust talk that we are enjoying now, we would instead be fully involved in a different type of conversation, questions. LOTS and lots of questions. Should the Broncos take a QB in the first round to replace Tim Tebow or let the kid have his chance at a full season? Where is our biggest need? How can we fix the holes in the defense? Can we maybe win 6 games with this up coming schedule? Do you think we can at least win the Matt Barkley sweep stakes? Questions of a team that would be or may still be fully in rebuilding mode. Does the addition of one player, yes an all time great player, really change ALL of that? I think Peyton became a giant tent in the last few years rather than a building block. Meaning you can drape him over your team and he is going to hide a lot of holes that exist, but you can’t build on top of him. Look at what happened to the Colts this year. A team that went to the playoffs the year before, could only win 2 games without Manning. Hopefully this organization learned from this Colts season and continues to fill those holes under the Manning blanket. So that when we are without #18, in however many years he has left. That way we don’t have another decade and a half of suffering as we did when Elway walked away. Something tells me that we don’t though. Even as Peyton was introduced at Dove Valley, Mr. Elway admitted we have no plan B. We don’t know what to do if #18 doesn’t pan out the way we hope. Which honestly makes me nervous as a fan for the future. Why is it that in the ultimate team game, the retirement of a great signal caller spells doom for a franchise? Or the retirement of superstars in any sport really. Miami has started 18 different Quarterbacks since Marino retired. Buffalo went back to being just a joke, instead of just jokes about not winning the Super Bowl, with the retirement of Jim Kelly. The list goes on and on, in fact only San Francisco and Green Bay in recent memory made good transitions. And both teams had to tell their HOF quarterbacks “sorry we are going in a different direction”. Is that really the only way to keep from taking this nose dive into the rebuilding pool? With free agency and the constantly changing landscape of pro sports, is this the only way to get it done? Ride that one guy for as long as you can, then become the Al Bundy of sports fans and talk of nothing but past glory? With all the great players that we had in Denver from football to hockey, did they not pass down their knowledge to the next guy up? How did Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy get out of the locker room with all the tricks of their trade still in tow? Maybe it is just the culture of athletes, worrying about your own job and keeping your tricks to yourself until it’s too late. Or maybe it just came too easy for them that they can’t tell you how they do it, they just do it. Just look at all the great basketball players who couldn’t coach or GM to save their lives….(ie MJ, Magic, Isiah Thomas, even Larry Bird), where as marginal players such as Phil Jackson and Pat Riley became all time great coaches. So how do you reload on the fly as a pro sports team? As a fan I love the championship runs, the division titles, and the wins piling up, so do I have to except the flip side of that? I say no! Not only no, but HELLLL no. In baseball you have a farm system where you are supposed to develop talent. If you listen to Dan O’Dowd of the Rockies, we just have to be patient and trust that the franchise knows what it is doing. Really Dan? Trust a franchise that has yet to even win its division in it’s almost 20 year history? As fans I don’t think that this is acceptable. I know you can’t win them all but damn it, you can try! Before Peyton showed up the Broncos were preparing for another rebuilding year. Even John Elway said the Broncos had an internal budget they were going to stick to. The Avs, once a proud francise that paid for great talent, now is $15,000,000 UNDER the salary cap with their own YOUTH movement. The Rockies always have some of the highest attendance in MLB yet claim that they can’t spend money because of being a “small market”. The Nuggets have taken a similar stance, like the Avalanche, with the departure of Melo. Small name guys that can play a lil bit but don’t cost much and can maybe get into the playoffs. Not even the GM believes this team is going to make a deep playoff run. Yet ticket prices continue to rise and rebuilding continues? Don’t get me wrong, I love my teams, I just want to also be proud of them again. Every organization people who do nothing but try and find that next guy at every position. Plus you have the draft and free agency, which if used properly can allow for your team to always try and get a little better. We should always be in maintence mode, not rebuilding mode. I guess I miss the 9 straight division titles that the Avs won. The years the Broncos ruled the AFC West, winning as many games as anyone in the NFL. We didn’t always win Championships, but it was entertainin,g even heartbreaking at times. But we knew our team was committed to WINNING! So if you are a true fan of your team, let them know, no more REBUILDING. Build a Champion and then Maintain it!