Posted: December 01, 2009

SportsBiz: Love hurts

Stewart Schley

Your love is fading. I can feel your love fading.

Can you name that tune?

Bingo! Temptations, 1966. "(I Know) I'm Losing You." Went to No. 8 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. Great in its original incarnation, but if you really want to dig in, listen to the searing version Rod Stewart and the Faces turned in on the epic 1971 album, Every Picture Tells a Story.

We submit this timeless lament of fizzling romance as the theme song for The Colorado Avalanche, circa November 2009. For it has come to pass that after an extended honeymoon, the torrid tryst of fan and team is, sadly, no more.

It was a beautiful thing while it lasted, wasn't it? Devout and devoted, passionate and consuming. Oh, those first sweet explorations. Learning about each other, encountering unfamiliar worlds. "So that's what offside means!" we would say, and gaze adoringly at the ensuing face-off. It was all so new then. A sultry stranger had walked into town and swept us off our feet. We were dazzled. Flushed. We had butterflies. All our friends could see it. We glowed. We started behaving strangely. We bought jerseys that weren't orange. We stopped putting our children in time-out, and started putting them in the penalty box. We learned a new way to pronounce "Roy."

We were rewarded for our love. We achieved the ultimate coupling: multiple you-know-whats. (Stanley Cups, pervert).

They said it wouldn't last, but it did. Oh, the flame began to fizzle over time, but just when we began to wander, a quiet hero wearing No. 21 would return from afar, and our love would rekindle.
But then.

But then things changed. It's difficult to identify that one moment. There were no raging quarrels, only a steady drain. Players we loved retired. We stopped winning. And there we found ourselves, one evening last winter, and the house was chillier than usual. Not as many people had showed up. A sellout streak we'd presumed would last forever was suddenly no more. You knew what was coming next. Silent recriminations. Long sighs. Fatigue. Second-guessing. Then the steady drag of life itself: bills, layoffs, a weak economy. The expense of going out. We thought twice.

Now, here we are, trying to remain friends. Longing for a return to something that may not come back.

The truth is, it was a bit of a departure for us all along. We didn't grow up playing on ponds and lakes. We don't really have it in our blood. We were game to try something new. And don't get us wrong - we loved it. Still do, at times. But we need to start again, slowly. Need to get to know you a bit.

Trust us: It's not just about performance. You started the season red-hot, and the quality of play is as good as it has been in years, with a stout goaltender fronted by young, agile players who skate hard - and win.

But in Colorado, especially in a down economy, it takes more than that. You need stars. You need sex appeal. An Avalanche game needs to be an "in" place to be on a Thursday night.

We were commiserating the other day with a friend. Jeff Reece of Castle Rock. A longtime fan, the kind who can't wait to get one of the new Avalanche "third jerseys" for Christmas this year. He was at the Pepsi Center the other night when only 11,000 showed up for the Coyotes, and he was there against Edmonton, when it seemed like half the crowd was rooting for the Oilers. His take is simple. "We've always had Joe Sakic. Always. Now, you look at our roster, and there's nobody there who really gets you to want to see the game."

With apologies to exciting young players like Chris Stewart and Kyle Cumiskey, he's right. Reigniting the passion will require a new romance between fans and players. Because as a professional entertainment organization, The Avalanche doesn't need an economic recovery, so much as it needs a hero. You know, somebody to love.  

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Stewart Schley writes about sports, media and technology from Denver. Read this and Schley’s past columns on the Web at cobizmag.com and email him at stewart@stewartschley.com

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