Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Which is better, Aspen or Vail? I know you think you know, but you’re biased. As much as you love this town, the objective truth is that this is not that easy to determine. The last time we tried, the result was a draw. Of course we met in Vail then. Fortunately, we have another opportunity to figure this out, once and for all, at 4 p.m. Saturday in downtown Aspen – at least until next season.

Yes, I’m talking about soccer, and now you might roll your eyes and say, “What the heck will a soccer match between the two local high schools’ boys teams prove?” To which I ask, “Do you have a better idea?”

Do you want to decide it on national skiing-publication rankings? I hope not, because we’d lose. Besides, those magazines are headquartered in places such as New York, where they have different ideas about things, so whichever they say is best surely is not the best, but that opens a whole can of worms that places more emphasis on things such as night crawlers, so the argument is perpetuated, and we end up further from the truth after debating their criteria. I’d prefer not to take that bait.

We could talk about the quality of skiing, but the Vail supporters would turn that into a quantitative argument, and, again, we’d end up getting nowhere. Nightlife? Quality of life? Getting a life? Proximity to an interstate highway or an airport that can land 757s? Same thing: We’ll get nowhere because everybody values these things differently. I don’t want to do the ski-race thing, either. It’s way overdone in mountain-resort towns. Even if we go that route, I like our chances more after Lindsey Vonn retires and moves to Hollywood.

So we are left with soccer to settle the battle of the great ski towns. Soccer is about as European as skiing is. Plus, playing soccer is so good for the footwork necessary for skiing that we should all play more of it to get better at skiing and then challenge Vail to a race. Vice versa, skiing should be good for soccer skills, so if we can beat Vail in soccer, that should be enough to prove we are better skiers, too. Who needs a race? As you can see, there is a lot riding on this match.

I guarantee it will be quality soccer. Both teams are as good as they have been in many years in our Western Slope League that is as outstanding as expected. Aspen is going toe to toe (actually the crown of the instep near the laces to center of the ball, to be precise) with the perennial powerhouses this season, and it has been a joy for the fan to observe – lots of goals, shots, steals, and even a few yellow cards for spice.

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Now for the really cool part: The match is going to take place in Wagner Park. Based on a loose historical survey of my mind, the last high school soccer game, or for that matter any Aspen High School sport, to be played in downtown Aspen was in 1979. I vaguely remember this because I was on that team and was known to fearlessly go for the opposing teams’ goalie kicks with my head from my position as a defender some 50 yards away. I’m sorry I can’t give you more details.

That participation notwithstanding, this event will bring back a lot of memories. I remember when all the local high school sports were played at Wagner Park – football and baseball. I kid you not, they played real baseball there. How would you like to be in charge of windows at the old hotel across Monarch Street beyond left field? Talk about a tough penalty for parking in the wrong spot downtown – try a smashed windshield!

Anyway, the point is that there were no hippies flinging Frisbees around, yuppies sipping wine under tents or dogs crapping in the park back then. It was too full of kids playing all the time for any of those creatures to have a chance at it. Certainly it was a torn-up, pulverized, muddy mess eight months out of the year until snow covered it up, but it was vibrancy at its messiest.

The timing of this game at 4 p.m. on a sunny Saturday in the middle of town in the middle of offseason with the park lined mostly with people you know, is perfect. You want a small taste of old Aspen, to let your imagination run as hard as the players on the field? This is your chance. Ah yes, Aspen really is better than any place else.

Roger Marolt is kicking from the corner at roger@maroltllp.com.