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The diaspora of sports fans across our country now rivals the journey of the Irish to America and Moses leading his people out of Egypt. At any arena or stadium in the country you’ll see droves of fans from other cities, making their presence known like children given too much Mountain Dew. Hell, I’m pretty sure they held a parade for the Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory in Denver last week based on how many fans of that team live here. It’s now a sports fan reality whether you like it or not.
And it doesn’t matter what zip code you reside in, because of the internet and killer sports packages on your TV, no distance is too great for you to be a fan. But should anyone listen to you if you don’t live in the city of the sports team you’re proselytizing? I say no. And while most viewpoints are valid, if someone doesn’t live in the city the team is from, that opinion lacks something in the credibility department. Or at least should be taken with a Mile High grain of salt.
If you grew up in Colorado as a die-hard Denver Broncos fan but you moved to another city because of a job or some other life incident, you get a pass. But you’d be surprised at how many people who simply live someplace else are fans of the Denver sports scene. And while they are welcome additions, they can just pipe down a bit while the big kids are talking. If you’re a Packers fan and have never been to Lambeau, you haven’t taken that final step to being a true fan. And if you’ve never been to Mile High or had that impromptu Broncos conversation with a total stranger while pumping gas, you’re a second class citizen of Broncos Country.
You have to be a part of the culture, and not just on the internet. You need to drive by Mile High a few times a week and still have it catch your eye even while it starts to blend in to the scenery of a fast growing Denver. You need to pass by Coors Field on a routine day in February and become wistful for crappy baseball that is still a few months away. You need to see Pepsi Center off in the distance and wonder when a playoff game of any kind will be played there again.
If you live in a place where regular Joe’s aren’t wearing orange and blue on a Friday in October, I don’t think you’re reaching your full potential as a Denver sports fan. It’s not your fault, but as a fan, you’re like a hard core Elvis devotee who’s never been to Graceland.
As access has opened up for bloggers, many of the writers from fine Denver sports sites who don’t live in Colorado are making trips to things like Broncos training camp and this is an important step toward credibility. Because if you’re writing about the Broncos from New Hampshire and you haven’t been sitting on the side lines watching how CJ Anderson is cutting, then you have less insight than I do – a person with no press credentials but who could drive 20 minutes and peek over the fence.
Someone could write about the Colorado Avalanche and know ten times the amount any of us will ever grasp about the team, but if that person is sitting in Cleveland, the analysis seems clinical – like an astronomer describing in great detail how a black hole works, but will never see one with his/her own eyes. I appreciate the good coverage, but if you’re not waving off the scalpers outside Brooklyn’s on your way in to the Can, there is a certain flavor missing from your analysis.
I’m thrilled so many people love the teams that I do, but even with increased access through television and the constant rumble of the internet, it makes their opinion less viable because they are 800 miles away. Anyone can read the X’s and O’s and give you their opinion on it, but if you’re not anywhere near the vicinity of the beating heart pumping blood into that sport you venerate, you’re just another observer. An extremity where that blood isn’t being pumped to.
There’s no substitute for being there. I was tear gassed after the Broncos won its first Super Bowl, but wasn’t at Game seven of the Stanley Cup Final in 2001. I was a five minute bike ride away and it still haunts me. It’s the same for out of state fans because if you’re not in the thick of it, your experience isn’t the same. And while we may be united in our love for Denver sports teams, the thing that differentiates us is not how much we know or care about the teams, but a zip code.