For those of us still think the world of sports is a wondrous place where dreams come true, 2007 was a nightmare. We learned that an NBA ref was on the take…that a star NFL quarterback was hanging dogs...and that the winner of the Tour d’France was a doper, as well as the Olympian Marion Jones.
We watched Barry Bonds in joyless pursuit of Aaron and Ruth, knowing in our gut that his new record would always have the stench of lies and steroids. And this was before the Mitchell report.
In a revolting sports year like this, one would think that a storybook saga like the surge of the Colorado Rockies would stand out at the pinnacle of everyone’s year end list of sports highlights—but incredibly, it does not, and I am at a loss for an explanation.
The Rockies were underdogs, a team that had been bad for over a decade. Their heroes were mostly fuzzy-cheeked unknowns, and they overcame astonishing odds. As over-hyped, over-funded media favorites like the New York Mets collapsed, the Rockies went on a historic winning streak from September 16 until the end of the season. With the east coast-obsessed sportswriting establishment barely aware of what was happening, Colorado rose from last place in their division to a tie for second and the NL Wild Card with the San Diego Padres, who were already printing play-off tickets.
The Rockies then came from behind against perhaps the best pitcher in the National League in the last game of the season, winning with an wild extra-inning rally as their hero, Matt Holiday, evaded a tag (and the plate) to score a sudden-death run that sent them into the post-season.
The last time a team followed this script was in 1967, when the young and unheralded Boston Red Sox won a four team race on the last day of the season to win the American League pennant after nearly finishing last the year before. Like the Rockies, they lost in the World Series, but nobody cared. The pennant run was so thrilling and unexpected, so full of heroics (Carl Yastrzemski was astounding in September, though not much better than Matt Holiday was in the last two weeks of the Rockies run), that it revived baseball in Boston, and is still regarded as the turning point for the franchise.
Appropriately, most of the sports media knew a miracle team and a historic moment when they saw them: the triumphant “Impossible Dream” season of “Cardiac Kids” was the story of the year.
So why not the Rockies? Surely there was plenty to remind us of the parallels between the two teams—not the least of which was Colorado’s World Series opponents, who had been celebrating the 40th Anniversary of that “Impossible Dream” from opening day, and who used Yastrzemski and his ’67 teammates as talismans throughout the post-season.
True, the Rockies didn’t perform as impressively in their Series loss as the ’67 Sox had against the superior Gibson-Brock-Cepeda Cardinals, taking that series to seven games—but in the end, both teams came up short, and both teams already had their miracle seasons in the books.
Perhaps the Rockies haven’t received their due because they were only wild cards in an era where both pennants and the World Series have been devalued—but they still swept through the playoffs without losing a game. And it is true that the Rockies left field leader, Holiday, didn’t quite have the luster of Yaz, who became the last player to win a Triple Crown and won games with his glove as well as his bat. But the Rockies were probably a better team than the ’67 Sox, who never had a pitching rotation, a set bullpen, or a catcher who could hit above the Mendoza line, while the Rockies had a swash-buckling rookie shortstop and Todd Helton, a bona fide Hall of Famer, as supporting players to Holiday’s heroics.
The bottom line is this: it's not fair. In a year of cynicism and tarnished heroes, one team came out of obscurity and showed a city and a nation that dreams could still come true.
Maybe not enough people dream any more. But for us dreamers who are left, the Colorado Rockies were the best sports story of the year in 2007.