When did team ownership in Denver become such an issue? Sure. I get it. It’s not like there was one precise moment that it happened. These things tend to evolve over time.
But as we sit here in the winter of 2020, we find ourselves as fans complaining about each team’s ownership and wondering when things will get better.
Allow me a moment to reflect on each.
Avalanche and Nuggets
Sorry soccer and lacrosse fans, but I’m going to focus on the big two with Stan Kroenke for the moment. Yes, the Nuggets and Avalanche are winning games. Their position in the standings as each makes the push to the 2020 playoffs is outstanding.
But no one can watch.
With the unique position of not only owning the teams, but also owning the television network they air on, Kroenke has left the vast majority of fans with no choice for the past six months. They might venture out of the house to a favorite watering hole in the hopes it has DirecTV, which did reach an agreement with Altitude TV to continuing airing the network. But if you rely on Comcast for your home television, which according to claims is 57% of the market, you’re S.O.L.
To make matters worse, KSE filed a lawsuit against Comcast in November, alleging the company engages in monopolistic practices. You rarely take someone to court if your negotiations are going well. Comcast responded in January by submitting a motion to dismiss the suit.
As someone who works in the media, and in full disclosure also co-hosts a nationally-syndicated television show for Altitude every fall, I can tell you that the battles that have taken place (and continue to) behind the scenes are much more than any casual fan will ever understand. Television, radio and digital media are evolving an incredible rate. Everyone (Mile High Sports included) is pounding triple shots of espresso every morning in the hopes of keeping up.
It is simply the nature of the media business today.
I’m not here to say whose fault it is. Personally, I believe there are pieces on both sides of this dispute that are valid. What I do know is this: the general fan sentiment has reached a level of frustration with Kroenke that one would never expect when his teams are near the top of their respective conferences.
The massive positive vibes that should be surrounding both teams have been erased by the pissing match between two rich and powerful entities. And it’s the fans who pay the price.
“But hey! At least we have a Party Deck!”
Every time the Rockies frustrate their fans, that is the phrase I see most on social media. The long-standing feeling has been that the Monforts know how to host a party, but don’t know how to host, let alone win, a playoff game.
So after a very disappointing 2019 season where the team finished with only 71 wins and was only one game out of last place in the National League West, fans expected the team to make a push prior to 2020. To find its way back to the postseason as it had done in 2017 and 2018.
No such luck.
Not only did the team sit on its hands during free agency, but General Manager Jeff Bridich managed to piss off the best third baseman the MLB has seen in decades. The trade rumors surrounding Nolan Arenado had fans ditching their season tickets. I know folks who have declined renewal for the upcoming season, siting the team’s lack of interest in winning.
So you can blame Bridich for a lot. Some of it is deserved and it is part of the job he has.
But at the end of the day, the Monforts own the team. Dick Monfort runs it. And he is not doing a very good job.
Over this past weekend, Sports Illustrated reported that Monfort talked with Arenado. But how did it even get to that point to begin with?
Years ago, I made a statement on the radio that I continue to stand by: It’s not that Dick Monfort doesn’t want to win. It’s that he doesn’t know how.
Bridich became the GM of the team when Dan O’Dowd resigned. Fans might remember that Monfort wanted to extend O’Dowd’s contract at the time that he stepped down. O’Dowd had led only four winnings seasons in his 15 years. Yet Monfort wanted to keep him.
The leadership of the Rockies is loyal to their people. The problem is, they are loyal to a fault.
Robert Kraft is loyal to Bill Belichick. And rightfully so. The Evil Genius has earned it. He is a once in a generation coaching talent.
So if you were the team owner at 20th and Blake, who would you give your loyalty? A General Manager who can’t seem to put aside his Harvard-educated arrogance?
Or a once in a generation talent at third base?
Oh, where do we begin?
An organization, any organization, is only as good as its owner. It is why the Denver Broncos have been so good for so long. Because Pat Bowlen was a phenomenal owner.
So where does the team go from here?
It is no secret that the trustees would like to see Brittany Bowlen, the third-youngest of the Bowlen children at just 29 years old, become the controlling owner of the team.
But will the rest of the family support the move? That may be a key point.
“Everybody else is going to have to sign off on that,” said Broncos CEO Joe Ellis at the end of the 2019 season. “That may not be a requirement, but it’s going to be necessary from the trustee viewpoint.”
Given the legal battles, I have a hard time seeing “everybody else” in agreement.
“That’s why a sale is possible given the circumstances we’re in,” said Ellis.
There are times I struggle with my feelings about the Broncos’ ownership situation. As I have said many times, despite my position in the media, I am a fan first.
While I would love to see resolution to the ownership dispute, I am reminded of this: The grass is not always greener on the other side. Yes, having these legal battles is not ideal, but without knowing who the next owner might be I have no way of knowing if it will be better.
Yes, having one singular “the buck stops here” owner is what every team wants (and what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants with the Broncos). But, as a fan, you also want that person to not be a raging idiot.
Do I believe the Denver Broncos need to be sold? Yes I do.
Am I also nervous as hell about what that new era of the team might look like? Yes I am.