Long time Colorado sports fans know this feeling well, too well in fact.
It’s a feeling that is comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time, like an old wool blanket at your grandmother’s house. It’s warm and comfortable, but no matter how wonderful it feels, you know the scratchy, smoky, sneezy side will rear its ugly head. It’s just a matter of time.
Denver sports teams are a lot like that blanket. Fans have grown up knowing that a local team is good, maybe great, but just knowing the other shoe is going to drop as heightened expectations are dashed by reality.
You need examples? Denver has plenty.
There were the hopes of the Orange Crush in ’77 and the expectations of the three Amigos in ’88, both dashed in Super Bowl blowouts. It got so bad many of us didn’t want to see the Broncos in the Super Bowl in 1998. We didn’t think we could take the pain of another trouncing.
There was the hard-court magic in 85 and 94 where Nuggets playoff wins were tempered by the knowledge that the climb to the top was too steep and that a title was never going to be in the cards.
There was even the magic of 2007 where thoughts of a World Series title were trashed by Rockies ticket agents before even one pitch was thrown.
Even when a title has landed in Denver, most have come with a bit of tarnish. The Avs in 1996 and 2001 felt bought, not earned. Colorado’s football championship was shared, thanks to the pettiness of the Little Red’s coach who, despite no rivalry, couldn’t stand to see the Buffs win a title before him.
Yes Saint John’s Super Bowls were great, but many wonder if all the years of pain that preceded them were worth it.
Now it’s the Nuggets once again, and the dread is back. In spades.
The Nuggets look strong, but…
Don’t get me wrong, these Nuggets are good, but even as they fought, and clawed, and defended (defended?) their way to the second seed in the West, no one believed they could win it all. Most picked them as the team that would get upset in the first round.
Only these Nuggets showed them.
They not only beat the Hornets, but dismantled them so thoroughly that the sheik pick for team of the future is contemplating rebuilding.
Dallas is next. Sure Denver has dominated them the last two years, but the playoffs are different. And it sure felt different for the first quarter and a half of Game 1.
But the tough as nails Nuggets came back and won easily. And then the Los Angeles Lakers, the elephants in the room called the West, got beat. At home.
Denver’s chances are improving daily. And more and more people are thinking if Houston can beat the Lakers, why not the Nuggets? Suddenly talk of getting to the Finals doesn’t sound so shrink worthy. Or does it?
There’s a long way to go, and Dallas isn’t out by a long shot. Neither is Los Angeles. But this team feels different somehow. They feel like the type of team that worries everyone else. The Nuggets are a tough, mean, athletic, composed juggernaut that finally learned to win a playoff series and realized how good they can be. But is that good, good enough?
Yeah, Chauncey has worked wonders, but are the ‘Melo, Kenyon, J.R., and Nene of years past gone for good, or just waiting for the worst possible moment to…to…I can’t even go down that road.
So what’s a gun-shy Denver fan to do? Well, one could always just turn the television of and save themselves the pain.
Not me. I’ll be following the advice of noted Denver sports fan Alfred Lord Tennyson, who after San Francisco’s 55-10 demolition of the Broncos in 1989, wrote. “’Tis better to have loved Denver teams and lost badly then to never have been to the playoffs at all.”
So sit back, relax, and enjoy Denver’s latest thrill ride. Just try not to think about the…