Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
It’s the thing we all know, but talk about in hushed tones in the bleachers. It’s scholastic sports in Aspen. The towns we play, plain and simply, don’t like us. The two most noticeable results of this are vicious catcalls from the stands and obviously biased refereeing in far too many instances. The cycle is as predictable as it seems to be perpetual. They say mean things about us. We say mean things back. It’s ugly.
There, I put it out there. It’s as true as I am tired of it. I’ve experienced it for 40 years, and I don’t think it needs to be the white elephant at midfield any longer.
I used to think that the idea of fans from other places not liking us was our own imaginations running a breakaway – sour grapes, ignorance, what have you. That’s when I was about 12 years old and wearing the local red-and-black uniforms. That’s right – the taunts from the anti-Aspen crowds date all the way back to Converse high-tops and wooden baseball bats. As with all premeditated heckling, there were clever variations of the theme, but when we went on the road, and even at home within earshot of the visitors cheering section, we were the rich, spoiled Aspen hippies. And you thought our nickname was the Skiers.
In my youth I didn’t consider this treatment harsh. Perhaps because it oddly worked to feed my adolescent rebellion, I actually reveled in the mean-spirited “cheering.” The loudmouths legitimized our presence on the field and validated us as a threat. It was all good until the Friday night of my senior year, when our school bus needed a police escort out of town after a football game we didn’t even win. Even a 17-year-old boy full of bravado was uncomfortable with that.
After heading off to college, with the passing of distance and time, the idea of Aspen being the target for mean-spiritedness disguised as team spirit seemed more and more ludicrous. Surely, every high school athlete believed that every team from every other town in the league despised them, too. That’s a normal teenage athlete feeling, isn’t it? Especially when your sports teams were so … mediocre? And, even if it was real, maybe it was something that happened only during a brief period of locally tumultuous history. Issue forgotten.
Forgotten, that is, until I came back and witnessed the same things for decades more as an umpire, coach, casual fan and parent and while working the chains on the visitors’ sidelines of Friday-night home football games. I’ve seen the same things from a lot of perspectives. It’s not my imagination. It’s not normal. Disturbingly, I think it has gotten worse. You think we live in one big, happy valley? Attend any sporting event featuring Aspen versus Basalt, Carbondale, Coal Ridge, Rifle, Grand Valley, Grand Junction, etc., etc., over the hill and up the other valley.
Let’s not play coy, though. We know and understand why people from small towns across western Colorado don’t like us. Look around: Aspen is stunningly beautiful. The houses you see, which aren’t necessarily the ones we live in (but how would anyone know that?), are huge and magnificent. There are Gulfstream IVs by the dozen at the airport. The streets are clean, and things are running as smoothly as sheets of hundred-dollar bills rolling off the presses at the mint. Our school campus is almost beyond comprehension: a ski lift practically in the parking lot? It doesn’t help that, on one notable occasion, our coaching staff landed in a small town in a private jet for a playoff game shortly before the team showed up in a couple of chartered buses. Yes, people noticed.
It’s not like we are immune to feeling the same awful things about other teams, either. On the rare occasions we play the team in Colorado that comes close to rivaling us in providing opportunities for its students, we bristle. Of course I am talking about Faith Christian High School, the private institution in the city, loaded with loot, and that uses its charms to attract star students and athletes. The campus is so nice and its student body so talented, pimple-free and polite that it is nearly impossible to like them.
We don’t need to pretend that we don’t get it. The ugly word that nobody wants to bring up in this discussion is “envy.” Yes, many people are envious of us, as many of us are envious of Faith Christian. If we cage this monster and let it run only on game days, it will never get tired and wear out on its own.
Forty years is a long time for the beast to haunt us. Let’s talk about it. Let’s tame it. Let’s get back to having this be about kids playing games.
Roger Marolt knows we can’t solve a problem if we don’t admit there is one. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
The high cost of living in the Roaring Fork Valley is one of the factors that makes our population perpetually restless and transient.