How The Colorado Rockies Became America's Team
This is how the Rockies win the National League pennant. With class.
No chest-beating, no trash-talking, no tear-them-down-to-get-us-going stuff. Just baseball. And teamwork. And no small bit of heart. And I know that’s just stuff that writers write about teams who win. Sometimes, it’s even true. For the Rockies, for this brief, shining moment, it’s gospel.
Last night, the Colorado Rockies pushed through their seventh (eighth, if you count the one-off against the Padres) post-season win. That makes 21 out of the last 22, which is the first time that’s happened in the National League since the 1936 New York Giants. It was a close-fought game that took on different complexions as the innings progressed. First it looked like the D-Backs finally found the ball, and they were moving it pretty well. Then came the bottom of the fourth, when Colorado exploded (both in terms of the Rockies and the cheers from the fans). And then the D-Backs rally that, in the end, wasn’t enough. 6-4 Rocks. But if you’re reading this, you know the score by now.
What was remarkable about last night was how the Rockies suddenly became, at least based on the commentary from the boys in the booth, America’s team. Sure, they were quick to trot out the “don’t count Arizona out” chatter early in the game, when the D-Backs had their first lead since Game 1, and again later when they scored three on a Chris Snyder home run. “This is why we use the conditional term ‘if’”, said TBS' Chip Caray. “If the Rockies win, and that suddenly looks in doubt.” And this after he, Tony Gwynn, and Bob Brenly had unloaded every bit of their color-commentary ammo once the Rocks took a five-run lead, and were all but eulogizing Arizona for three innings.
But there was no denying the Rockies’ play last night, and for once, the announcers were giving them their props. Tulowitzki’s athletic leap for the line drive in the 3rd was a thing of athletic beauty. Tony Gwynn couldn’t stop talking about Tulo’s cannon of an arm, and rightly so. They also correctly pointed out the insight and guts it took for Clint Hurdle to take Morales out of the game in the 4th, and allow the pinch-hitter Seth Smith to start the Rocks’ rally that would eventually win them the game. They talked about the team’s morale, how they just came to play, how they didn’t put much stock in their growing reputation, but just played good ball. They talked about how a team with one of the lowest payrolls in the game came to be such an impressive powerhouse of a team, and not one that relies on one star to carry them all, but how they did it together. They came to praise the Rockies, not to bury them, and it was a satisfying switch, if a bit late.
In previous games, the announcers seemed to have taken the same view that Arizona’s Eric Byrnes espoused in his post-game comments after Game 2: That the Rockies were more lucky than good. By the end of the game, though, even Byrnes must have been reconsidering that position from his place there on the baseline, face down in the dirt. The Rockies’ sweep of the NLCS ended as it could only in the metaphysical and mysterious ways that baseball has: Perfectly. Byrnes, the trash-talking villain of the series himself, grounds to Tulowitzki, who shoots the ball to Todd Helton at first. Last out, from the should-be Rookie of the Year Tulo to the Rockies stalwart leader, Helton. You couldn’t have written that better. You couldn’t have written it, period. No one would believe it.
But the fans believed. And the team believed. And now, it’s the nation’s turn.
America, meet the Colorado Rockies. Colorado Rockies, America.
-- Teague Bohlen
Teague Bohlen is an assistant professor of English at the University of Colorado at Denver and writes about television for blogs.westword.com.