End Zone 

No barking fish just knuckleballs

Six years ago last month, the longest love affair of my life (so far) came to an end.

OK, so it wasn't that kind of love affair. Love-hate was more like it, based on feedback over the 24-year relationship: sometimes torrid, sometimes angry, but always stimulating.

For those who haven't lived around Colorado Springs that long, we're talking about my tenure writing sports columns at, uh, the daily newspaper that former colleague Rich Tosches enjoyed calling the Gazelle. That experience spanned an estimated 4,000 columns, not counting the bylined stories along the way, all adding up to somewhere around 4 million words.

There were lots of Super Bowls (capped by John Elway and the Broncos winning the last two), Olympics, Final Fours and Frozen Fours, the Stanley Cup, two Sky Sox championships, many Air Force and Colorado bowl games and miracles, state tournaments, hill climbs ... and let's not forget figure skating or other Olympic sports.

That's the historical background. Obviously, life has taken different turns since the spring of 2001. New experiences, new lessons, new outlooks.

Now, after enough time at the Independent to prove that an old dog can learn new tricks, it's time to add a new pitch to the repertoire a weekly knuckleball. Nobody will ever know where it's going.

Other alternative papers have a sports presence. Why not us? Longtime Indy readers will recall the days when local TV sportscaster Jed Jackson, God rest his wonderful soul, provided his "Barking Fish" awards to these pages.

My boss, Indy publisher John Weiss, has repeatedly "suggested" adding a sports column to my duties. I resisted, wanting to focus on being executive editor as well as writing the news-driven "Between the Lines" column.

Finally came a different idea. Not one or the other, but both. It could be cathartic also to "share" the highlights and foibles of the local and state sports scenes. A double shot, every week, with sports inside the back cover.

This feels like sitting down to dinner with an old friend, wondering what will happen next. It can't be just like the past, because that was a daily communication. This will be just once a week, though with blogging plans in the works for our Web site, you never know.

Actually, over the past six years, the local and state sports scenes didn't exactly make me yearn for Colorado. You'd think there was a curse or something. We could go into detail, but why bother? Better to hit the restart button and go forward.

The plate of potential subjects is overflowing. Don't expect much reminiscing, though occasionally a history lesson will make sense. But not often. Much better just to add perspective here and there, as needed.

Here's a quick appetizer:

One Saturday night during that personal journey, in the heart of Gator country, was spent watching a college quarterback from a school better known for superior academics. He carried a mediocre team and almost pulled off a monumental upset at Florida before losing in overtime.

His presence and spunk left me with a single thought: Mechanics aside, he played and led so much like an embryonic Elway and that comes from somebody who covered No. 7's entire NFL career. This guy clearly had comparable potential.

His name? Jay Cutler. And as soon as the Broncos nabbed him out of Vanderbilt in the 2006 draft, a new thought came to mind:

Could history repeat itself? Probably not ... but you never know.

Cutler will be a regular topic (or target, of course) in Colorado sports conversation, regardless. It's obvious that the hungry, nostalgic Bronco Nation is ready to watch that saga unfold.

And you can read about it, right here.



Best on the air U.S. Senior Open, Thursday-Friday, noon to 4 p.m., ESPN; Saturday-Sunday, 1-4 p.m., NBC. Next year, it'll be at the Broadmoor.

Racing the clock Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, July 21.

Football already Broncos report for training camp on July 29.

Did you hear? U.S. Women's Open returns to the Broadmoor Golf Club in 2011.

Falcons aim high Air Force football opens the 2011 season at home against Florida State.


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