The New Sports Model: Integrity Before Celebrity

Court Zierk@CourtZierkCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2009

DENVER - OCTOBER 11: Matt Prater #5 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after kicking the game winning field goal in overtime against the New England Patriots during an NFL game at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 11, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

A new trend is emerging in Colorado professional sports, and it’s one I think all of America should take note of.

Gone are the days of the animated, egocentric, glory hungry athlete, poisoning locker rooms and leaving seasons mired in mediocrity.

Respect and accountability has now become the beacon by which all four major Colorado sports teams now assess their players.  

The Colorado Rockies ownership, for all their flaws, have ushered in a new era of athlete. Generation R, a movement exemplified by youth and character, has become the model for all local teams, and it is a refreshing deviation from the typical modern athlete.

They have drafted and developed a brand of athlete cut from the finest cloth. There is never an off field altercation to speak of, chemistry within the locker room is of consistent excellence, and by all accounts the players within the organization are first-rate human beings and citizens.

This has of course manifested itself on the field where the Rockies have now made the playoffs two of the last three years, both coming by way of historic regular seasons.

Now it is becoming apparent that this model of excellence has become contagious.

The Nuggets were the first to follow suit, shipping the notoriously self-absorbed Allen Iverson to Detroit in exchange for the humble and classy Chauncey Billups. Even the move to get rid of Marcus Camby, while on the surface seemingly done for financial reasons, was in my opinion a reaction to his increasingly egregious attitude.

The impact of these moves was felt immediately in the makeup of the team chemistry. Players who had previously been trouble prone were now buying in to the team first mentality, and looked to Chauncey like a big brother setting the example.

Kenyon Martin had his best season in years and by the end of it, he had become the defensive leader of this team.

Chris Anderson, a reformed bad boy, became a source of inspiration and energy.

Carmelo Anthony, despite all of his troubles in the past, adopted this new attitude and elevated his game in nearly every statistical category considered to be indicative of selflessness.

I could go on about the Nuggets, but that would be doing the Broncos an injustice as they are quickly becoming the city's figure head for integrity.

Josh McDaniels came into Denver and made some decisions that were enormously controversial and unpopular. However, as we look in retrospect, the motive for these moves was obviously deeply rooted in the desire to improve the character of his team.

Jay Cutler wasn't shipped out of town because Josh didn’t think he had talent. Anyone with two eyes can see that he has the potential to be great.

The move was made to eliminate the possibility of him becoming a locker room cancer. Do you think it was a coincidence that Cutler was replaced by a reputedly principled and upright citizen in Orton?

Even Brandon Marshall now appears to be buying in. Last week against the Cowboys, he was seen on the sideline embracing McDaniels after his game winning reception.

Sure, winning tends to cure all ills, but I definitely don't think you would have been witness to this scene if McDaniels hadn't so sure-handedly demonstrated his commitment to holding everybody equally accountable. Players notice and respect this. Even the ones who are most guilty.

While the product may not be as exciting, no one can argue with the results.

The Rockies are riding their best three year run in franchise history. The Nuggets made it to the Western Conference Finals for only the second time in their storied franchise history. The Broncos are 5-0 now, fresh off of their victory against the almighty Patriots in the "Hoodie Bowl." Who knows how far they can go?

I truly can't think of another city right now who's pro sports teams more closely exemplify the values and ideals of an entire fan base. We are a hard working people, who put our family's needs before our own, who hold one another accountable for our actions, who treat each other with respect, who prefer a display of integrity over one of celebrity.

We are not unique in these pursuits. There are many other cities out there with people just like ours, but I can honestly say that I've never been as proud as I am today to be a Colorado sports fan.