The first person to pipe up was a particularly hairy little fellow with a nose ring who replied, “Who cares?”
Which certainly wasn’t the answer I was looking for. And which left me a little stunned at the hostility, so that all I could mutter in response was, “Me, dude.”
But what I thought was, “You little gerbil. I’d like to see you catch a quick flick across the middle and just one time find a 235- pound linebacker named Bubba waiting to meet you there.” Wham-O!
Ultimate always makes me think about football, with the end zones and the chance to play quarterback from the handler posi- tion, or to go long for a big spinning plastic bomb like running out the post pattern for the last minute catch to win the Super Bowl. And the crowd goes wild!
Everybody loves the deep post (I think the Broncos should run it about 1,000 times more this season), because it gains big yards and because everybody loves a long throw down the center of the field. And because we all feel like heroes when we make that grab—Frisbee or football.
Which makes me wonder—how can you play ultimate and not like to watch pro or college football? Whether it’s for inspiration, entertainment, or just as an excuse for drinking beer? Or because when you see that deep throw to the corner of the end zone and the receiver and the defender racing down the sidelines looking over their shoulders to make the play, you love to pretend you’re those dudes.
And who the hell in Colorado doesn’t want to know the Broncos score?
Being an outdoor sports participant, and a rabid pro sports fan, is in the DNA of anyone living in Colorado, from Trinidad to South Park, Aspen to Pueblo. That summit-to-stadium existence provides the very essence of the good life in Elwayville—climbing a 14er in the morning and catching the Rockies game in the afternoon, mountain biking ‘til two through gold September aspens then watching the Donkeys on TV, or tuning your boards while listening to the Nuggets on the radio.
The perfect mix of outdoor lifestyle and pro sports stoke is why so many Front Range towns are annual shoo-ins for top ranking among America’s most aerobically-enhanced cities. It’s why a website called Calorielab.com ranks the entire state of Colorado fittest of the 50 states, and why Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs regularly make the likes of Forbes’ and Men’s Health magazine’s most healthy towns.
Which, by sheer averages suggests that Colorado has the largest population of pro sports fans that can actually run from end zone to end zone. And by sheer pad-to-peak-proximity, that we can most likely outshred, outhike or out-pedal any other city with a pro football and hockey team to root for.
That Mile-High marker is what sets us apart. And makes us proud. It’s the reason even the pros who come here get gassed. The constant story about how the visiting team will have to deal with Denver’s thin air, and why our Colorado teams are capable of so many late game heroics. It’s why I remember when one of my favorite cousins had a mountain wedding in June of 2001 on the same day that the Colorado Avalanche met the New Jersey Devils in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
The groom was from Vermont, which meant that in addition to all of the Colorado fans there were also plenty of New England boys cheering for Boston Bruins-to-Avs transplant, the legendary defensemen Ray Bourque.
And after a beautiful blue sky ceremony in a sunlit field, all the climbers, cowboys, ski bums and stock brokers slipped inside to hunt out TVs in a loft and next door in a sports shop, leaving the bride’s reception a ghost town until the final score: 3-1 in favor of the Avalanche.
At which point, the radiant Libby stepped to the microphone and said, “I’d like to congratulate the Colorado Avalanche for winning the Stanley Cup, and announce that I am going to have the rest of my wedding now.”
So we cheered and spilled back out into the sunset, celebrating all of the little histories of a single day—a day that we would remember beyond so many others—all golden and happy in the warm mountain air as we danced.
It was one of life’s little landmarks, at the intersection of self and sport. It is one of those stories that explains why I know most of my friends better through the teams they root for than I do by who they married, or what they do for work.
The Gerbil Boy was a rocket on the field, quickly out-running defenders and capable of great flying squirrel layouts for the deep disc. He easily scored half of his team’s points, and stopped just as many of our attempts. And as much as I regretted not seeing him laid out by a deep safety hit, I regretted even more seeing him go head over heels for a grab in that little dress.
Which may be the biggest difference between pro sports and alternative sports… the pants. •
You can read more of Peter Kray’s writing, including excerpts of his upcoming novel, The God of Skiing, at