On Thanksgiving, there are many things to give thanks for; family, friends, health, and others. But for a sports fan, while those things are a given, there are many other reasons to be thankful as well.
In Denver, where expectations of teams are a mile high, every professional sports franchise has surprised in the past year. And because of that, a fan only has to think for a few minutes to realize they should be very thankful to many individuals for their favorite team’s success.
So, without any further ado, here is what, and who, I am thankful for this Thanksgiving from a Denver sports fan’s perspective.
I am thankful for Super Joe, Joe Sakic, the amazing Avalanche center that retired at the end of last season. Sakic was the undoubted leader of the Avalanche for the past 12 seasons, since they came to Denver from Quebec in 1995, and he was the consummate professional and teammate.
Sakic’s wrist-shot was the best in the NHL during his time, and he was a deadly scorer—but Super Joe was at his best when passing to teammates. His 1,016 career assists rank him 11th all time, he was a 12-time All-Star and his 84 goals in the playoffs put him seventh best all time.
I am also thankful for the Colorado Rockies’ success in 2009, even if they lost in the first round of the playoffs. The Rockies were horrible to start the year, 19-29 under Manager Clint Hurdle and they looked to be the same old sorry Rockies from years passed.
But Colorado GM Dan O’Dowd made the switch from Hurdle to then bench coach Jim Tracy at the end of May, and the run the Rockies made from there was remarkable. After Tracy took over, Colorado went 72-42, won 91 games which was a franchise best and were 22 games over .500 which was an all-time team best as well.
And not only was Tracy’s baseball smarts good for the team, so was his gentle spirit and true care for his players. Multiple times this year, Tracy embraced his players in a hug, while crying, showing he not only cares about wins but the state of his players’ well-being too. Tracy is not only an asset from an X’s and O’s standpoint, he’s a great person too—a rarity to find in an MLB Manager in 2009.
Next, I’m thankful for Allen Iverson. I know, this doesn’t seem right, coming from a Denver fan’s perspective, but hear me out. Iverson brought a lot of excitement to the Nuggets when he was traded here, and with him he brought back many Nuggets fans that stopped caring after a decade of losing.
But not only that, Iverson being in Denver for a year and a half set up the Nuggets to return the king of Park Hill, Chauncey Billups back to town.
Billups has completely revamped and returned Denver’s franchise back to greatness in the NBA, leading the team to their first Western Conference Finals appearance in 25 years. Mr. Big Shot Billups totally changed the mindset and culture of the Nuggets, making sure teammates know he’s all business and took the leadership role from jump.
And I’m not only thankful for Iverson and Billups, but I’m also thankful for Joe Dumars, the Detroit Pistons’ GM. Dumars decided to take Darko Milicic instead of Carmelo Anthony with the No. 2 pick in the 2003 draft, and as they say—the rest is history.
Melo has been outstanding for the Nuggets, taken the team to the playoffs every year he’s been in Denver and is even competing for the NBA MVP this year. If everything works out perfectly, maybe Billups and Anthony can even bring Denver its first NBA championship in the near future—which would add another reason for Denver fans to be thankful.
Finally, I’m thankful for Mike Shanahan, Denver’s best ever professional coach. Shanahan took a decent team and turned them into back-to-back Super Bowl champions in under five years.
And even though Shanny missed the playoffs in his last three years in Denver, which made Pat Bowlen give him the axe, it was recently announced that Shanahan and Sakic will both be going into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in February.
And really, because Shanahan is gone, it gave Josh McDaniels a chance, who I am also thankful for. McDaniels was under scrutiny from the time he got the job, as he is the second youngest head coach in the NFL today. Then he traded away Jay Cutler and it seemed like deja-vu when he and Brandon Marshall had much covered disputes.
But since then, McDaniels has fully righted the Broncos ship, although it has been taking on lots of water in the past month. Sure the Broncos are 6-4 after starting 6-0, but their record and the fact that Denver is in the playoff hunt means McDaniels has already met and exceeded expectations.
And as the Broncos get ready for likely their biggest game of the season against the Giants, a quintessential must-win, I would be the most thankful for a dominating Denver win.
So here’s to being with family, eating wonderful food and sports on one of the greatest holidays celebrated in the US.