5 years doesn’t seem like such a long time, does it? 5 years is a blink, a flash, a collection of moments that you’ve only just stopped living in. At least, this is the way it seems to be until you stop for a moment, and really think about who you were 5 years ago, and how much you’ve changed since then.
In my case, I was 19 years old and a sophomore in college. Everything happened much faster back then, as I hadn’t yet tasted the blandness of post-collegiate life. I now realize that the great thing about being that age is that life was simultaneously defined by the dizzying pace of the moment and the anticipation of what was to come next. Every experience was new and exhilarating, and I thought that there were only more moments like it to come.
I can say with confidence that some of my favorite moments from that year were the one’s in which I found myself rooting for a Rockies team that was playing meaningful late season baseball games for the first time in over a decade. I remember watching in disbelief as the Rockies rampaged through the National League, winning 14 of their last 15 games. I remember watching game 163 with my college roommates, poised on the edge of my couch, leaping into the air as I saw Matt Holliday and his marble chin go hurtling across home plate.
Then, before I even had a chance to process the joy and delirium of that improbable run, the Rockies were headed to the World Series. I was at Coors Field on the night that they won the NLCS. My family and I had seats tucked into the most remote corner of the stadium, but that mattered little. What mattered were the waves of joy that washed over us as Tulowitzki’s final rocket propelled throw of the series reached Todd Helton’s outstretched glove. I jumped and grabbed and screamed at the top of my lungs. I’m pretty sure I even hugged the head of whatever stranger was sitting in front of me. That night was one of those “It’s all happening” moments that are meant to define one’s youth. I was 19 years old, the Rockies couldn’t lose, and life was good.
Even when the Rockies ran into the buzz saw that was the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, my enthusiasm for the team never waned. I watched game three at a local bar just a few blocks away from the stadium. The place was absolutely packed, everyone inside was standing shoulder to shoulder, eyes fixed on the TV screens that ringed the bar. I got separated from my family early on, and a nice young couple invited me to sit at their table with them. They were very welcoming. We ate nachos and drank Irish Car Bombs together.
Eventually I left my new friends and found my family again, who had managed to grab a booth in the back room of the bar. I remember sitting in the corner of the booth, pressed up against a leather upholstered wall. Whenever the Rockies made a good play or threatened to score, I stood and slapped that wall as hard as I could while screaming like a maniac. Matt Holliday homers to left. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Hawpe singles to center, Helton scores. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Tulowitzki ranges for a ground ball in the hole. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack.
The Rockies lost that night, and yet it was still the most fun I’ve ever had watching a baseball game. I knew that they were going to lose the next night too, but I didn’t really care. I still had plenty of reasons to be optimistic, because it felt like I was witnessing the birth of a new era of Rockies baseball. This was a team that was going to matter to me. It was a team that was going to make noise for years to come. The new Rockies were a furious collection of burgeoning talent, and I was intoxicated by both the thrill of the moment and the prospects of the future.
Each season following 2007 felt tethered to the magic of that World Series run. Things didn’t always go smoothly, and many players came and went during those years, but the momentum from 2007 was still present, and it felt like the team was evolving as it should.
Heading into last season, it seemed like the Rockies were finally ready to finish what they had started in 2007. Potential was set to give way to actuality. Ubaldo Jimenez was going to become one of the best pitchers in the league behind his volcanic fastball. Tulowitzki and Gonzales would emerge as one of the best 1-2 punches in the game. Ianetta, Fowler, Smith, and Stewart were all set to unleash the graceful power and breakneck athleticism of their games. Anticipation was high, and it wasn’t at all out of the ordinary to see experts picking the Rockies to win the NL West in 2011.
What was meant to be a dream season turned out to be a nightmare, and the Rockies struggled to reach 73 wins. Hope and promise was quickly replaced by panic and overreaction as the team crumbled further with each passing day. Players were sent down and recalled from the minor leagues on a seemingly daily basis, the starting lineup was torpedoed and reassembled countless times by the bumbling miser that had become Jim Tracy, and the greatest pitcher to ever wear a Rockies uniform was unceremoniously traded away.
I watched the 2011 season unfold from the somber quiet of my new apartment and the perspective of adulthood. Deeply depressed by the team I was watching, I tried to cling onto the magic of 2007. I tried to remember a time when watching the Rockies didn’t mean watching a team play terrible baseball at the end of yet another mind numbing workday. I searched desperately for the blinding exhilaration that this team used to pull out of me.
It was all gone, though. Everything that had begun in 2007 had suddenly been blinked out of existence. What had started as an unexpected explosion of new life had ended in stale ignominy. Now, 5 years later, Rockies fans stand on the precipice of the 2012 season, and are forced to face the notion that Jamie Moyer may very well end up pitching a meaningful amount innings this year. Youth and promise has given way to experience and “character.” Guys like Michael Cuddyer, Marco Scutaro, and Ramon Hernandez are supposed to right the ship with their grit and moxy, erasing the calamity of last season.
They may very well succeed, too. If the pitching breaks right, it is likely that the team will perform much better than it did last year. Whatever the case, I know I will still be watching as many games as I can, but I doubt that I will be doing so from the edge of my seat. There won’t be any illicit Car Bombs or unbridled hope to remember this season by. Instead, there will probably be light beer and struggles to stay awake during games that run especially long. 2007 is only a memory now. The Rockies coming of age story has reached its pedestrian conclusion.
You can follow Tom on Twitter @ToLey88