The Denver sports survivor’s guide

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The calendar doesn’t lie; the 230 days that it shows between now and the next time the Broncos play a meaningful game, most likely slated for Sept. 13, 2015, are painfully true. The chance to wash the bitter taste of the loss to Indianapolis is almost 33 weeks away.

Judging by the first weekend without football – unless someone wants to count the Pro Bowl, which would mean there is officially no hope for them as a person – that could shape up to be a long stretch. On the surface, there just isn’t much to fill the void on the Colorado sports calendar.

The Nuggets currently sit at 18-26, which puts them 13.5 games back in the Northwest Division and seven games behind Phoenix for the final playoff spot. In other words, the NBA isn’t going to provide a way to bide time until football season.

And the Avalanche, the team who provided a much-needed lift a year ago after the Broncos debacle in the Super Bowl, don’t look like their poised to make another playoff run. At the NHL All-Star break, Colorado sits in fifth place in their division, staring up at nine other teams in the Western Conference.

So that eliminates the two most-obvious choices; the automatic fallbacks as ways to bridge the gap between football seasons are not viable options this time around. Hoops and pucks aren’t going to provide a diversion in 2015.

Normally, that would be cause for concern; it would paint a bleak picture for the next 230 days. But this time around, there are plenty of other things ready to fill the void; people just need to know where to look.

So as a public service, as a way to cure the Broncos hangover and set the stage for the next seven-plus months, here’s a list of nine things to fill every Coloradoans sports calendar until the orange and blue take the field again:

1. FIS Alpine World Ski Championships (Feb. 2-15) – The best skiers in the world, competing in the biggest event the sport has to offer during a non-Olympic year, take to the slopes in Vail/Beaver Creek to test themselves against other top racers from around the globe. This is truly a one-of-a-kind, world-class event; make sure to head up the hills for at least one day of the festivities.

2. Mammoth vs. Black Wolves (Feb. 22) – Back in the early to mid-2000s, the Mammoth were among the best teams in the National Lacrosse League; as a result, their home games were a hot ticket. But a few straight down years have pushed them off the radar a bit, especially while other lax options in town have flourished. But it looks like the Mammoth might be back; right now, they’re the only undefeated team in the NLL. Maybe they can exact some revenge on a team from New England.

3. CSU Basketball (March) – After this weekend’s huge home win over San Diego State, the Rams sit at 18-2 on the season; that’s a staggeringly good record, as Larry Eustachy has his team playing at a high level in Fort Collins. But ultimately, Colorado State’s season won’t be judged on what they do in the Mountain West; it’ll be deemed a success or failure by how far they go in the big dance. Perhaps a Sweet 16 trip is possible? That’d be uncharted waters for a team from the Centennial State in recent years.

4. Rapids vs. NYCFC (Mar. 21) – Sure, the Rapids struggled last year; but this is the second season under head coach Pablo Mastroeni, so things will improve a ton. But that’s not the only reason to be on hand at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for the home opener; instead, it’s about seeing two rising stars. Shane O’Neill and Dillon Serna, two homegrown Rapids players, will be a part of the 23-man U.S. Men’s National Team on Wednesday when the Americans take on Chile. They’re worth checking out.

5. Rockies Opening Weekend (Apr. 10-12) – In other markets, fans are counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report; given that Colorado seems content to trot out the same roster that was underwhelming a year ago, there’s little excitement around here heading into the MLB season. But the home opener is always fun; and given that the Rockies get the Cubs to start things off, there’s no reason to battle the amateur hour that is opening day, as any game that weekend will suffice.

6. Raptors vs. Barbarians (Apr. 25) – The easiest way to learn the sport of rugby is to watch a match up close and personal; it very quickly begins to make sense, unfolding as a game of football without huddles and featuring only laterals. Then, it’s hard not to be hooked, especially at Infinity Park, where fans can watch one of the best teams in the U.S. from seats that are right next to the action. The Raptors game-day experience is so good that a first visit surely won’t be the last. And the beer flows in a fan-friendly environment.

7. Outlaws vs. Hounds (May 3) – People have spent the past week lamenting the state of Colorado sports, bellyaching about how none of the local teams are anywhere near winning a championship. Apparently, they forgot that the Outlaws hoisted the Major League Lacrosse trophy just last season. The victory was the culmination of a great run of success, as it was Denver’s ninth straight trip to the playoffs and their fifth title game appearance, to go with a .728 all-time winning percentage.

8. Women’s World Cup (Jun. 6 – Jul. 5) – Remember how much fun everyone had during last year’s World Cup? It provided a chance to play hooky from work on a Tuesday, head down to the local tavern and watch soccer with a bunch of people all rooting for the same team. This summer, it’s time to do it all over again, as the Women’s World Cup kicks off in Canada. But this time around, American fans actually have a chance to be happy, as the U.S. team is one of the favorites heading into the tournament.

9. MLS All-Star Game (Jul. 29) – It’ll be tempting to get lured back into Broncos talk, as training camp will be kicking off at Dove Valley around this time. But don’t fall for the hype; it’s nothing but practice. Instead, head to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for the only All-Star Game in American professional sports that’s worth a hoot, as the best players in MLS – led by Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni – will take on an elite international club, such as ManU, Chelsea or AS Roma. Fingers crossed that it’s Arsenal coming to the Mile High City.

That’s nine marquee events, never leaving more than a three- or four-week gap on the calendar between something to get the competitive juices flowing. During those breaks, hit the links, pick up a tennis racquet, go for a hike, ride a mountain bike on a singletrack or do one of the countless other things that the great state of Colorado has to offer.

Just don’t sit around and wallow about the Broncos. That’ll make for a long 230 days, a pity party that nobody wants to see unfold.

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