I was surprised on Wednesday by the comment I had pointed at me: "My second most hated team is the Nuggets." The woman who said this to me and I have a long-standing football rivalry. Her nephew played for the Oakland Raiders, and most autumn mornings find me wearing my deep and abiding affection for the Denver Broncos literally on my sleeve. And my back. And on cold days, on my head. I accept that I make myself a target here in the heart of the Silver and Black Hole, but what was going on with the Nuggets? Are we now tossing down a basketball gauntlet?
The Denver Nuggets are currently having a bit of success. I confess that I was surprised to be told that the last time they made the Western Finals was 1985. That's long enough ago that I can remember living in Colorado and following the team, but I could never call myself a "fan" as in "fanatic." All of my basketball ya-ya's came from watching high school basketball. Once I graduated, I preferred to hop on the Boston Celtics bandwagon.
But there was this one night, when my older brother managed to get us a couple of "really good seats" to go see the Nuggets in action. We chugged some nachos and threw back a few souvenir cups of Coors Light as we enjoyed ourselves in an intensely brotherly way. When the game was over, we got ourselves down near the player's exit where we offered our Hawaiian print Nuggets caps up to Wayne Cooper for his autograph. He signed on the underside of the bill, so we made an immediate show of flipping it up to reveal our celebrity connection. For years afterward, we would often greet each other with this odd gesture, usually without the hat, announcing "Wayne Cooper."
And now, upon reflection, I can see that my concerns for the Denver Nuggets run more deeply than I might have at first imagined. It is most certainly the reason that I flinched when she said "second most hated team." I can assume that number one must be the Broncos, but I guess I don't really want to find out.