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.