Something is a little off whenever you go to a Colorado Rockies game on a beautiful summer night in Denver. It is hard to articulate, but you know that the atmosphere at Coors Field is no where near that of Busch Stadium. Busch Stadium is filled with excitement and anticipation before a game — a sea of people dressed in red engulf the stadium as you can literally feel the energy bouncing off the walls. Coors Field feels more like going to watch the symphony — people are looking to be entertained for the night, caring as much for the beer as they are for the Rockies. What has caused these stark differences in attitude and environment? How can two teams in the National league have such a different atmosphere and culture?
I had never thought about these questions until I moved to Colorado eight years ago and was suddenly in a city where there is a Major League team. I had been to Cards’ games before, due to my dad’s loyal following of the Cards (Living in Louisiana at the time, with no baseball team, I had also decided to become a Cards’ fan). The excitement and thrill that comes with games at Busch Stadium was all I had ever experienced before. So when I attended my first Rockies game (against the Cards) at Coors Field, I was taken aback.
It started with what the people were wearing. Instead of seeing a stadium filled with purple and black as I had expected, I saw a mix of various colors that all seemed to blend together. In fact, I saw just as many people wearing Cardinals’ apparel as I did people wearing apparel Rockies’ apparel (including myself).
The next problem I noticed was the lack of spectating and cheering. Many people were just as entertained looking at the games on the big screen between innings as they were watching the actual baseball game. The beer tabs piled up as Rockies fans viewed the game as a good time to get drunk and yell profanities directed at their own team.
Come seventh inning stretch time, the anticipated, “Root root root for the Rockies”, became an incoherent jumble of different teams’ names. What the heck is going on? I thought, Where is the passion for the home team?
I now realize that the lack of a solid fan base is a result of many factors. Firstly, the Rockies are a very young franchise. They have only been around since 1993. The Cards, as an organization, had been around 101 years before the Rockies. This history is a big part of how the Cards were able to build such a loyal and strong fan base over time. The Rockies will never be able to replicate the history that the Cardinals have.
The next issue lies within the city of Denver as a sports bubble. Denver is a football town through and through. Ask anyone in Denver who his/her favorite sports team is, and the answer will almost always be the Broncos. This is not the case in St. Louis, where the Rams are more of an afterthought to the Cards. Denver also has the Nuggets and Avalanche (and Rapids and Mammoth for you soccer and lacrosse fans out there), all of whom have been increasing their fan bases and attracting more viewers. This is a tough place for the Rockies to compete for the love of the people of Denver. With many other successful teams to watch, the Rockies simply have not been performing at the level necessary to garner vast attention.
Finally, the Rockies front office is struggling to find solid players for fans to rally behind. Yes, we have our Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, but beyond that, the Rockies are comprised of a bunch of no name players who are either brand new to The Show or are on the brink of retirement. The lack of success for the Rockies (with the only exception being 2007 where they made it to the World Series) has caused the owners to try to compensate in other areas.
For example, the Rockies recently tore down part of their upper deck in right field to build an area called “The Rooftop” where new bars and restaurants are located, in hopes of attracting a younger crowd to the games. While great in theory, The Rooftop has created an environment where people eat and drink while socializing with each other as the game is going on in the background. If this ever were to happen in Busch Stadium, fans would be furious! In Denver, it is the norm.
Such an atmosphere in Denver makes me really appreciate what the Cards have done here in St. Louis over the last century. Not only have they produced talented teams that compete for the World Series often, but they have created a fan base that is going to remain loyal through anything. The Cards are a priority in St. Louis; fans are willing to drive over an hour to see a game (such as my dad did when he was a kid). The Rockies are simply a way to kill time. The Cards have a magic about them that the Rockies will most likely never create.