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Fans take Rockies travails in stride

by Stephanie Miller
Sky-Hi Daily News

So my boss wanted me to cover the World Series Thursday night from a local bar.

Not a bad assignment, I might add ” getting paid to drink beer and watch the game certainly beats covering board meetings. I chose the Untamed Southwest Grill in Winter Park because I like the vibe. The bartenders are fun and attentive, the staff is friendly, and the bar is, well, a good sports bar. Plus, I’m a big fan of freshly brewed beer.

I am not a fan, however, of baseball, so I decided to drag my husband with me, for technical support. It’s not that I hate baseball; it’s just that watching sports on TV doesn’t really appeal to me. But even I can respect the fact that the Colorado Rockies made it into the World Series (especially over a few cocktails).

So there we were, sitting on the south side of the bar, my pen and notepad sitting out in front of me. The game has just started; the restaurant is fairly quiet. Fans seem cautious. Chris Ciccarelli, one of the restaurant’s cooks and a Red Sox fan, starts to clap loudly (and was quickly ‘booed’ by his co-workers).

“By this time last night, it was packed,” the bartender, Jeff Carmean, told us as he poured two Three Pin pale ales. “Fair-weather fans,” said another patron. Perhaps Wednesday’s World Series game, which ended up being a 13-1 defeat for the Rockies, cooled off some of the local Rockies fever.

A batter for the Rockies steps up to the plate. Curt Schilling, the starting pitcher for the Red Sox, throws the first pitch and it skims the batter’s fingers.

“What’s up with the inside pitches, Kurt?” somebody yells.

I quickly bury myself into the menu. Chicken burger or tofu fajitas?

“Yeah baby! Now the defense is showing up!”

Ooh, dollar nachos and dollar hot-dogs. That’s a good deal.

“Ooh that’s gotta hurt!”

I look up to see a replay of a Red Sox batter getting nailed by a pitch that’s probably going about 85 mph.

“He walked right into it!”

At about this point in the game, I realize something is amiss. The people sitting on the east side of the bar seem to be cheering a good 10 seconds before we are. A friend explained to us that the TVs on the east side are Comcast; ours are HD, and therefore have a slower satellite feed.

“There’s like a seven second delay,” he said laughing. “So if you want to get the early scoop on the game, sit on the east side of the bar.”

The time is now about 7 p.m. and the bar is getting a bit more crowded. I spot Kirk Klancke and Jeff Durbin sitting across from me and immediately go bug them for quotes.

“I’m a Rockies fan, of course,” Durbin said. “I think this whole thing has been a blast. Am I upset I didn’t get tickets online? Yeah. But that’s OK.”

Klancke, who usually listens to sports on the radio at home, looks very happy to be watching the World Series on a big, wide flat screen TV.

“These guys have passion,” he said about the Rockies. “I love passion.”

The three of us peer up to see Red Sox hitter David Ortiz wail a ball into the outfield in the third inning.

“Boy did that thing fly off the bat! Must be the steroids,” joked Klancke, and winked. “You heard it from a credible source.”

The fourth inning goes by, and the game is tied. I return to my seat and pretend to act interested. It’s OK not to be a “huge” sports fan, I thought to myself as I bit into my veggie fajita. I’m pretty sure the group of ladies next to me laughing into their cosmopolitans weren’t that into the baseball game either. Although they probably don’t have an article to write. I decided I better start paying more attention.

During the fifth inning, Mike Lowell, third baseman for the Red Sox (according to my husband), hit a double and broke the 1-1 deadlock. The Red Sox are now ahead 2-1.

The room filled with groans and expletives. Ciccarelli steps out the back door for a smoke, and his co-workers, mostly Rockies fans, shut the blinds on him and laugh.

“Traitor!” they yelled. Fans can be cruel. George Sharpe of Fraser drove this point home.

“As long as the Red Sox are in anguishing pain, I’m happy,” Sharpe said. “Wait, are you quoting this? Uhm, well maybe not anguishing pain. Well, yeah, I said it. Did that sound too evil?”

It is now the bottom of the sixth, and I have figured out the key to baseball: Lots and lots of wine.

“Oh come on!” I heard myself yell at the TV screen. “That guy was safe!” Did I just say that out loud?

As I look around the room, I notice all the familiar, animated faces and realize I’m actually having a really good time. Fans don’t just come to bars to watch the games; they come for the camaraderie, that shared passion for the game ” and that charge of excitement that permeates the air.

I look over to see two guys watching the game next to me. I ask them what they thought of Wednesday’s game.

“I loved it!” said Chris Bruno, of Winter Park ” clearly a Red Sox fan. He proudly zips down his jacket to show me his Red Sox T-shirt, but then quickly zips it back up. This is, after all, Rockies territory. His friend Justin Bruce, an Old Town Winter Park resident, just shakes his head.

“We’re both from New Hampshire,” Bruce said. “But I’ve been here 20 years. I say you got to draw the line after 10 years,” he explained as to why he’s now a Rockies fan. Bruno has only lived in Winter Park for nine years.

“I won’t switch when I hit 10,” Bruno added, smiling.

Suddenly someone on TV holds up a sign that reads: ‘Soxtober’ in big, red letters.

“Soxtober? It’s ROCKtober! That’s (expletive) stupid!” somebody yells.

Time passes. I think it’s still the sixth inning ” definitely my third or fourth drink. The Red Sox pitcher walks off the mound.

“Ba-Bye Shilling!” somebody yells, clapping. “Ba-bye!”

Things seem to be getting a little more exciting. Rockies reliever Matt Herges is pitching for the Rockies, and he walks Kevin Youkilis.

“Woa! He swung so hard I was looking for where it went!” yelled Klancke. “It’s hard to get on base with the Rockies, no doubt about it.”

Herges catches a grounder and throws it to first base instead of second. Quickly, he falls from grace.

“You always get the lead runner!” Klancke yelled again, and groaned.

It’s getting noisier as the crowd gets more amped. Now it’s the seventh inning, and I sit up a little straighter because the Rockies No. 7 player, Kazuo Matsui, is up at bat, and he’s fairly good-looking. Suddenly I’m very interested in baseball. Too bad he struck out.

“You still think he’s cute?” my husband asked, smirking. I decide to talk to a couple on the other side of the bar ” Mark Villarreal and Jennifer Bufkin. Mark, who’s from Fraser, has to spell his name for me several times before I get it right. Perhaps I’ve had enough drinks.

“I’m a Red Sox fan. She’s Rockies,” Villarreal said. I ask them if this ever gets in the way of their relationship. The two have been together for three years.

“It doesn’t annoy me so much,” Bufkin said, laughing. “We go to a lot of games together.”

“I’m just a baseball fan,” Villarreal added. “I cheer for the Rockies. But Red Sox . . . . they’re just the team I like.”

Bufkin, who lives in Granby, said she’s really excited the Rockies made it to the series.

“I like cheering for the underdog, and then all of a sudden: Bam! They’re in the World Series. It’s great!”

Now it’s the eighth inning. The Red Sox are still ahead, 2-1. The mood is hopeful, anxious. Bottom of the ninth. A lot of chatter. I’m talking with a Rockies fan next to me when suddenly, the game is over. Silence. Bitterness. More shots are ordered. The bar suddenly clears out and only a few Untamed staff members are left. Chris Knowles, a bartender for the Untamed, looks slightly stricken.

“I think I’m ready for ski season,” he said into his beer. He sits next to Colleen Deem, of Fraser, who is still optimistic.

“It was a game this time. Sure I’m disappointed, but not nearly as disappointed as last night,” she said. “But (the Rockies) never give up. None of their fans should either.”


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