Hey, ESPN, the view from up here is a great one
On Friday, I strayed from the large herd of animals in the media corral – smoking Austrian reporters, Norwegian TV guys, dashing female French correspondents, Japanese photographers – to see what was up there.You could liken me to a curious young calf with legs to run.OK, I had good reason.My dad had come up to watch the downhill race, and I decided that instead of just watching on the big screen from the bleachers below we should go up to the perch near The Pumphouse turn to take in the action up close.Seriously, who wants to sit in the nosebleed section when you can get courtside?A little background information: My dad is a 52-year-old snowboarding Lutheran pastor who yells at the TV when the Broncos are on, who requests the CU fight song at piano bars, who thinks watching the Rockies at spring training in Tucson, Ariz., for a week is a dream vacation and who has been known to preach sermons using sports as it relates to the gospel.
Some retirees in Colorado aspire to be ambassadors at ski resorts in their old age. My dad wants to be one of those guys at Coors Field with the green shirts who point people in the right direction and get to watch every game. He thinks it’s the step right before heaven.He had never seen a ski race in person, though. He’d watched them on TV during the Olympics a couple of times. He’s listened to me rattle on about them ever since I covered my first Birds of Prey last year. He never had a reason to really take an interest in the sport, however. He could tell you who plays quarterback for every team in the NFL, but before Friday he wouldn’t have been able to pick Bode Miller or Daron Rahlves out of a lineup.Which is why I took him to The Pumphouse. I’d never been there myself, but I heard it was the pure experience. No raucous music over the PA. No play-by-play. No beer vendors.Just this – human beings traveling between 70 and 80 mph down a sheet of ice on skis. After the first couple of racers zipped by, standing there together with a swarm of anxious onlookers, it was obvious we had found something for which all sports fans yearn – pure, untainted excitement.
No, it was more that. It was pure excitement and pure terror. Most sports fans get hooked because of the risk factor involved in their respective favorite sports. There is drama in a wide receiver going over the middle or a base-runner ignoring the third-base coach as he tries to beat the throw home. But there on that perch we could feel the inherent danger. Our stomachs turned every time someone came screeching by. Every bobble made us bite our tongues.I know The Pumphouse is named for the little hut that hooks up to water pumps that are used for snowmaking. The serendipity of the name didn’t go unnoticed on either of us, however. Believe me, The Pumphouse gets your heart pumping.After watching Bode tear by en route to his historic win, my dad and I strapped on our boards and went back down to the finish. We both watched as Bode’s teammate Daron Rahlves, the winner of the make-up downhill on Birds of Prey last year, flew into the finish area with the second-fastest time on what was a historic day for U.S. skiing.Later on that night, as my dad was driving back to Boulder, he called me on his cell phone. “I just wanted to say thanks,” he said. “I had so much fun today. That was really cool.”Yeah, it was.
Ski racing is really cool, but you’d never know it when you watch SportsCenter. After Miller and Rahlves went one-two in downhill and Vail’s Lindsey Kildow won the downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, on the same day the accomplishments didn’t even get a mention on The Big Show.Barry Bonds’ deceitful admission of using steroids unknowingly – yeah, right – and NBA highlights were more important.So were college football previews and umpteen NFL stories. Even in our local metro papers, the Broncos and the Buffs got more ink.Miller lamentably admitted that he has no clue how many people have an interest in World Cup skiing in his home country outside of the people that came to watch him race this weekend.”How would I know the (TV) ratings?” he told a reporter Wednesday night at a private party. “I have no idea. I don’t ever watch any of my races on TV because I’m in the races. I don’t actually get to see any of the response in the U.S. because I’m not in the U.S. I’m in Europe. I have less perspective than anyone in this whole room about how popular it really is.”Maybe he said it in defense, because even though Bode seemingly doesn’t care what anyone thinks, it may hurt inside to know he is more recognized abroad than he is over here.
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Who knows? All I know is that the people who don’t have an inkling of interest in the sport don’t know what they’re missing. As for Dad and I, well, we both know. When your hair stands up on your neck, and it’s not because of the frigid temperatures, how can you not know?As Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly once wrote, “The best stuff never makes it on to SportsCenter.”So true. At least now I know where to go to find it.Staff Writer Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Colorado
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.