Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 10 Colorado Sports Moments 2012

I've been a fan of all the Colorado sports teams since growing up in Denver in the 60's.  Here are my top sports moments of 2012:

10. Colorado scores 17 points in 4th quarter to beat Washington State at Pullman 35-34.
Bet you didn't think a Colorado football moment would make it into the top 10!  It was an awful season for the Buffs but at least their ONLY win was an exciting one - coming back from 17 points down to beat Washington State on the road.  After losing 69-14 the week before to Fresno State, and losing their first two games to lowly CSU and Sacramento State this win was totally unexpected.  And much maligned quarterback Jordan Webb had his best quarter of the season in that 4th quarter - winning the game on a gutsy quarterback keeper as time ran out.

9. CSU beats Colorado in opener 22-17 after trailing 14-3 late in 1st half. 
I'm one of those rare CU fans who also roots for CSU except when the Rams play the Buffs.  While this game was disappointing for my CU interests, I must admit I was glad to see new CSU coach Jim McElwain celebrating with his team after this huge win in Denver.  Colorado is better off when both CU and CSU are fielding competitive teams, and this win was huge to get the McElwain era off to a good start in Ft Collins.  Now that I have a son going to CSU I'll be rooting for the Rams a little more, but just a little.  The Buffs are still my favorite college football team.

8. Todd Helton walkoff home run vs Arizona, April 14, 2012.  
Talk about disappointing seasons.  The Rockies joined the Buffs in having a terrible 2012 campaign.  But in the first two weeks there was a magical moment at Coors Field that made me think I was watching The Natural.  At the end of a cold, rainy 5 hour game Todd Helton was up with 2 outs in the bottom of 9th man, man on first, with the Rockies trailing the Diamondbacks 7-6.  Coors field was virtually empty as most fans had departed the cold weather long before the game got to the 9th.  Todd Helton hits a two run homer just inside the right field foul pole to give the Rockies the win!  This fan captured the improbable blast by Helton on video:

7. Avalanche beat Detroit 4-3 Feb 25th ending the Red Wings 23 game home winning streak
Remember the Avs?  With the NHL work stoppage the local hockey team has been pretty much forgotten this Fall, but the team did have some big wins early in 2012.  The best was a 4-3 victory in Joe Louis Arena to stop Detroit's 23 game home winning streak.  The Avs had some other big wins too, like beating the Rangers in NY, but then fell apart in the season's final 3 weeks to miss out on the playoffs.  There were moments, though, like this win against the hated Red Wings, that hinted the Avs could be back on the right track. (addendum: Vancouver actually ended the Wings long home winning streak with a win in a shootout Feb 23rd, but the Avs on Feb 25th were the first to beat the Wings in regulation in Detroit since the streak started)

6. Colorado wins Pac 12 basketball tourney, beating Arizona 53-51.
For most of my life there was not much to get excited about when it came to CU basketball.  I remember Cliff Meely when I was a kid leading the Buffs to a Big 8 title, and Chauncey Billups had his moments in black and gold in the 90's.  But CU basketball has mostly been a wasteland for the last 4 decades.  That's what made this improbable tourney run by the Buffs so sweet!  The victory over Arizona was the Buffs 4th straight in the tournament, and then they followed it up with a first round upset of UNLV in the Big Dance.  After Colorado's horrendous showing in football it was good to let the other Pac 12 schools know that the Buffs could be competitive in at least one sport (other than skiing!)

5.  Nuggets 126 Lakers 114 NBA playoffs game 5.
Denver sportscaster Vic Lombardi had this one pegged.  After the Nuggets lost game 4 at home to fall behind in their first round series with the Lakers 3 games to 1 most fans thought the Lakers closing out the series in 5 was a sure thing.  Not Lombardi, who said at the time he thought the Nuggets would win game 5.  And the Nuggets did just that, led by Kenneth Faried's 21 points and 15 rebounds.  The Nuggets won game 6, too, in a blowout before losing game 7 and the series at the Staples Center.  But at least the Nuggets gave their fans some post season thrills with 3 victories against the Lakers.

4. Broncos 31 Pittsburgh 19
This was the first Broncos home opener I had missed since 1966!  Away on a business trip in Alaska I could only monitor this game through scoring updates on my cell phone, but Peyton Manning's first non-preseason NFL game in over 600 days did not disappoint.  Manning hit Demaryius Thomas with a 71 yard td pass, Tracy Porter had a huge interception TD to clinch the game, and the Broncos beat the hated Steelers in the opener.  With Denver's tough schedule to open the season I saw this game as very important (even with this win the Broncos started off 2-3).

3. Tebow to Thomas beats Steelers in the playoffs
In only the third home playoff game for the Broncos in 11 years, Tim Tebow completes an 80 yard pass to Demaryius Thomas in the first play of overtime to lead the Broncos over the Steelers in the first round of the NFL playoffs.  This win was especially sweet for me, as I was in attendance for this and the last playoff game in Denver, a disappointing Bronco loss in the AFC Championship game in 2006.  Little did we know at the time that this would be Tim Tebow's last game in Denver as the Broncos starting quarterback.

2. Broncos Signing of Peyton Manning
When I first heard the Broncos were interested in signing Peyton Manning I thought, "Why???"  Denver had just come off an improbable playoff season led by crowd favorite Tim Tebow, and I was anxious to see what Tebow could do with a full off season of workouts that he did not have the prior year.  I also thought Manning was a huge injury risk.  But I trusted that Broncos President John Elway knew what he was doing.  The more I thought about it the more I wanted to see Peyton in Broncos Orange!  Peyton Manning turned out to be the best free agent signing of any Denver team since I've been a sports fan.

1. Broncos 35 San Diego 24
With a 2-3 record and trailing 24-0 at half time, the prospects of the Broncos having a good year looked dim.  But Peyton Manning led an amazing 2nd half comeback, outscoring the Chargers 35-0, to lead the Broncos to this huge win (their best Monday Night performance ever in my book).  Going into the season's final week as I type this, Denver would not lose again.  Perhaps the Broncos would have still rebounded had they lost this game and fell to 2-4, but I think this game was the key to the Broncos miracle season.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wesley Woodyard at Bronco QB Club

Tonight Denver Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard met with 80 fans from the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club.  Like past QB Club meetings I got the chance to meet an NFL player and ask questions about his experience with the Broncos.

Woodyard was incredibly gracious with his time before speaking to our group.  Each fan in attendance could get a picture taken with Wesley ...

Or get a football signed ...

Or even get a hug!

My favorite part of the meeting was when Wesley got in front of the mike and answered questions from the fans.  Here's a sample of some of his answers:

How would you compare the three NFL head coaches you have played under with the Broncos (Mike Shanahan, Josh McDaniels, John Fox)?

Mike Shanahan was a class act.  He brought me into the NFL.

Josh McDaniels was very smart.  That's it.

John Fox is a player's coach.  He really builds team comraderie.

Did you watch the 49'ers/Patriots game last night?

I didn't see it but I was hoping the 49ers would win.  I hate the Patriots!

What's it like to be Peyton Manning's teammate?

Peyton is great.  He's one of the first in the building each day and one of the last to leave.  He jokes with everyone - just like you see him in those commercials.

Does Manning get ticked off like it appears on TV?

Oh yeah!  He goes off on the offense.  He gets fired up when something goes wrong.  Not like any other quarterback since I've been here.

Does John Elway visit practice and give his coaching tips?

John usually stays out of it.  He and Peyton are always talking, though.  Like they are teammates.

Who do you admire?

Champ Bailey.  Playing football as a kid in Georgia I always wanted to be like Champ.  He's been the same person since day one.  A great person off the field - one of my closest friends on the team.

How has Keith Brooking fit into the team?

Since Keith didn't go through training camp we didn't know how to take him at first.  But from his first day he had given us a lot of insight.  He tells us what we are doing wrong.  I tell him 'Dude, you are so old, I used to have a bobble head of yours in my room growing up!'

Is Knowshon Moreno a good teammate?

Knowshon handled himself great in the early weeks of the season when he wasn't playing.  He worked hard every week (on the scout team) to get the defense better.  The looks Knowshon gave us really helped.  Now that he's playing more he's always encouraging us.  Yesterday he told the defense, 'Get us the ball, man!  We are going to score!'

Why has the defense stopped the run better this year?

We don't want to piss Del Rio off! (laughs)  When we don't stop the run, we do.  Del Rio is a true player's coach.  Having been a linebacker in the league he can relate to us.  He's better than any of the other defensive coordinators I've had in Denver.

Wesley thanked the Quarterback Club for inviting him to speak and for supporting his 16ways foundation - a charity he sponsors to help kids.  QB Club members donated christmas gifts to Wesley to distribute to kids in his foundation (pictured above)

Wesley Woodyard is truly a class act.  He was very gracious with his time in patiently talking with each fan who wanted an autograph, a picture, or just a handshake.  He answered all of our questions with candor and humor.  He stayed at the end and personally delivered the many door prizes given out to fans.  Woodyard is not only a great football player, he's a great person who is wonderful representing the Broncos and the NFL in the community.

Monday, December 3, 2012

An Evening at Dove Valley

Tonight I visited the Denver Broncos Headquarters at Dove Valley to be in the audience for the weekly TV show "Broncos Huddle".  The Broncos invited myself and 49 other members of the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club to watch hosts Susie Wargin and Dave Logan discuss Denver's victory over Tampa Bay.

 Bronco championship banners hung above us as we waited to be escorted to the tv taping.

I especially liked the team's two Super Bowl trophies on display in the lobby.  I hope the Broncos make room for a third come February!

While walking outside the locker room we saw photo posters for all the team's victories this year.  These posters a reminder to players of what they've accomplished this season.

The Broncos Huddle set was in the middle of the team's indoor training room.  Here hosts Susie Wargin and Dave Logan prepare for the show.

The small crowd, consisting mostly of Bronco QB Club members, had a great view of the taping.

Broncos coach John Fox was the first guest.  Fox said he was happy with the win over Tampa but that the team isn't "operating on all cylinders yet."  He said the season turnover ratio is negative (-3); his Super Bowl team with Carolina had  a +9 turnover ratio.  Two of the Broncos drives yesterday were stalled by penalties.  Minimizing turnovers and avoiding penalties will be emphasized this week as the team prepares for the Oakland Thursday night game.

Broncos cornerback Chris Harris was the player guest.  Harris told the crowd how it was a thrill to make the Broncos as an undrafted free agent.  "Playing in the NFL is something I've always dreamed of," he said.  He joked that Von Miller took an interception away from him yesterday.  "I was ready to pick the ball Miller got - he stepped right in front of me!"  He said it was good to play with veteran Champ Bailey.  Bailey teaches him to forget a bad play.  "You play cornerback and you'll get beat.  You have to forget it and be ready for the next play."

As I exited the Broncos facility I saw their Christmas tree decorated right outside the main entrance.  Getting a chance to see Dove Valley at night, listening John Fox and Chris Harris up close, and seeing the behind the scenes production of a TV show was an early Christmas present for this Bronco fan.