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Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

It’s all about basketball: The city of Aspen spent $18 million for an old lumberyard that the sellers were probably worrying was going under. We did it to build affordable housing on the land with a taxpayer subsidy amounting to about $500,000 per unit with the aim of keeping a few more workers up here at the Roaring Fork headwaters who will be charged with maintaining a sense of community in Aspen.

The fact that local politicians can’t even remember who was or was not at the meeting when they supposedly unanimously agreed to do the deal says less about the strained mental faculties of our elected officials (although it doesn’t bode well for them being admitted to the local Mensa chapter either) and more about our city’s desire to become a town, as it is rumored to once have been.

This isn’t a rip on politicians, at least not an unintentional one. Rather it is more to examine what we do to create the vague impression that beneath the snazzy ostrich skin we have stretched over this town of Aspen to make it appear a micro-cosmopolitan of 5th Avenue with miners’ flair, there exists a bona fide Mayberry that we call home.

As we know there is an implicit agreement that comes with the affordable housing program that houses the regular folks in this special place where the cost of land is prohibitive because the value of money is nil. If you are fortunate enough to have been lotterized into employee housing, in exchange for the considerable subsidy handed over to you by the taxpayers of the community, you have the moral, ethical and social responsibility to get out as often as possible to spread the feel of community about as if it were rose pedals in the center aisle of a post-New Year’s wedding in Pasadena. Don’t bitch. Remember, your home is one of the few in town that is still worth more than you paid for it.

If you don’t live in subsidized housing, you have the obligation to enjoy this making of community on a regular basis because this is what you voted for, even if you thought it was about the entrance to Aspen issue. You’re paying for it. Don’t waste it.

And by now you are surely asking yourself, “What on earth does this have to do with basketball?” Well, I think the above discussion on creating community around here is what we go through mentally sometimes to convince ourselves to attend plays, athletic events, and even Sunday brunch at the Hickory House. How about instead we simply eat ribs or go to a basketball game because it’s fun.

The choice is really much simpler than trying to figure out if our attendance is going to help hold this town together for another week. We have two teams playing in the state playoffs today: the girls and the boys. You can catch the girls game in Pagosa Springs at 6 this evening or the boys at Aspen High School at 7.

The girls will play PSHS (Pagosa Springs High School), which is ranked much higher than we are, but that is to our advantage as the girls have figured out that pulling upsets is extremely fun and, accordingly, they have become good at it. But, if you are going to catch that one, you had better start now. It’s a seven-hour drive when the roads are good. Not that you wouldn’t be rewarded. Pagosa Springs has a sense of community in proportion to the abundance of free parking on Main Street. Ah, but there I go again. It’s not about that. It’s about exciting basketball.

The boys, on the other hand, are playing at home. The drive up Maroon Creek Road will be much easier. The first-round game tips off at 7 this evening, and it sets up like this: The hometown boys are 23-0 for the first time since they started making basketballs round. We are ranked No. 2 in the state and have an axe to grind with No. 1, which is playing their own regional bracket somewhere on the Eastern Slope, possibly Kansas. Faith Christian has won the state title twice in a row now, and it’s also the school that knocked us out of the football playoffs and went on to take that top prize there, too. It is a private school that recruits players, a luxury we don’t have. If we win this weekend, next week we will have the rare opportunity to play underdog to them, a privileged school with all the amenities; also a first for us. Players are not allowed to look past the current game, but fans can because it actually makes our bleacher performance more urgent.

Now, some people will show up to the gym tonight to socialize. Some will attend to be seen. Others will go to cultivate business connections. A few will be there to critique Coach K’s game strategy. In between all of this everyone will be cheering and generally raising hell (in a very sportsman-like way, of course). Nobody is going there thinking about how to make more “community.” But, the funny thing is, afterward people will go home and feel like they were a part of one of the things that makes big cities seem nasty compared to the comfort of a small town like Aspen. It’s called “community,” but experiencing it will give you a whole lot better feeling than re-reading your highlighted sections of the Aspen Area Community Plan.

It’s easy to make snap judgments about what’s not working around here when you are stuck in traffic at the rush hours, but be careful not to judge a town by its entrance. We have so many meetings and form so many committees to save the spirit of Aspen that sometimes I think that we mistake the sense of community for cheap coffee and stale doughnuts shared while watching PowerPoint presentations in the courthouse annex. This weekend’s games are an opportunity to witness a better process – Aspen’s kids, parents and basketball fans will be at their best because of the place in which they live. Careful, it’s contagious!


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