“Saw an apple fall from a tree, that’s how he found gravity…”
– part of a rhyme I learned as a kid about Sir Isaac Newton
It wasn’t just gravity that Newton kid discovered. He worked his way to quite a bit more. Newtonian mechanics ended up being one of humanity’s first real maps into how all this craziness works, and while there have eventually been some modificatoins to his model, Isaac gave us the math to not only understand how and why things fall, but how fast they do it, what influences their decent, and even how easy and well they bounce back. So much goes into that bouncing back part, the hardness and malleability of both the objects impacting and being impacted. Force, mass, acceleration, deformation, velocity, all a part of the “plus gravity” equation.
When it comes to those sorts of physics, how well you bounce back is often predicated on how well you are designed to have done so in the first place. It determines how a ball bounces off a bat, how two players colliding in midair will fare from the blow, and even how organizations might turn themselves around from falls they hadn’t anticipated.
When the Denver Broncos last found themselves on top of their sports universe, it was less than a decade ago, in 2015. The Peyton Manning-led Broncos held the city and their fans in the palm of their hands, able to command all the attention in comparison to all their local peers.
The 2015 Colorado Rockies were eight years removed from their only World Series appearance, and six from their last playoff appearance. ’15 saw them flirt with 100 losses for the second season in a row, and they’re never won a playoff game since, only getting two chances. The Colorado Avalanche of that era found themselves in the midst of three seasons completely outside the playoffs, and the Denver Nuggets of that era found themselves wandering from coach Brain Shaw to some young buck they hoped could turn things around named Michael Malone. Everyone but the Broncos was in the dumps.
Who knew that would be that last time things would be good for the Predominantly Orange and Blue? Who knew that even the lowly Rockies would make a couple of postseason trips since. That the Avs would get through that down turn to make the next six playoffs in a row, including a Stanley Cup Championship. That even the never-before Nuggets would find themselves making it to five postseasons running, including their first title. How wildly the Denver sports universe has changed in just eight years.
The only team that really hasn’t changed its fortunes in the mix of things is MLB’s Rockies, who seem to have finally caught onto the idea of selling off their valuable assets in seasons that are going downhill – as 20+ of their 30 seasons have – and have actually embraced the tank to the degree that many have asked them to. Now that they’ve finally plummeted through that 100-game loss floor with a few games to go, they’ve assured themselves of the NL’s worst record, and the league’s third-worst. Their odds in the upcoming dreft lottery increased exponentially from years past by landing in that worst-three tier.
While the team wasn’t always the most compelling watch during the last half of the season, as the rookies tried to steer a sinking ship, the team increased its chances of being better down the road by having a chance at a great draftee. Whether the current organization is wise enough to take advantage of those increased odds… is a story for another day.
The Broncos, meanwhile, have deep-pocketed new owners who have invested in the last two seasons heavily in terms of improvements. The returns on those investments have proven frustratingly low thus far, and the team keeps springing leaks in areas that were supposed to be strengths. The Broncos had no idea they’d find themselves backsliding to such a rough spot last year, and at least they started that one at 2-1. Where they’ll find the moral victories in a year that’s off to an 0-3 start will be anyone’s guess.
Whose Newtonian mechanics are better built to bounce back from these moments at the bottom, DNVR Nation? The well-to-do but brand-new Broncos, or the unfortunately predictable Rockies? Which of the two will see the playoffs next? Will win a title? Which of those two teams truly finds themselves on the bounce?