Down and Out and Up:
A Substitute Writer Swears off Jock Talk
Editor's note: For the first time in three years, Strapping Danforth is taking a vacation from his position as Riff's Beat-Writer-Most-Likely-to-Get-Us-Sued.
Fortunately, before he left, Danforth slid a greasy envelope under my door containing the following letter. Scrawled in red on the first page were the words, “I didn't write this. See you in November—Strap.”
I play in Denver 's third most popular Bruce Springsteen cover band. We're called Tramps Like Us. I have a confession to make. Used to be, when I turned on the radio, I listened to sports talk. I loved it. It was soothing. The statistics, the endless debates over who belongs in the Hall of Fame, the drunken callers—all these things calmed me. On the down side, there was an overwhelming chauvinistic turn (“Women don't belong in (choose one) golf, the broadcast booth, a race car, the great outdoors”); macho anti-gay rhetoric was tolerated and occasionally encouraged; and the constant chatter of buying and trading human beings (granted, well-paid) carried a mild scent of pre-Civil War America . Plus, you have to admit it's a self-contained propaganda machine for the local sports clubs. Imagine if there was a radio station for Qwest that discussed the newest hires and interviewed managers in the bathroom.
Still, sports talk radio was predictable and it made me happy. It beat the hell out of listening to the right wing morons on KOA or the tepid children of Dave Matthews on KBCO. And, with all due respect, I'm a little old to get into some of the stuff they play on 1190. So it was sports talk I heard on my clock-radio as I drifted to sleep and sports talk I heard when my alarm woke me. Sports talk when I drove to and from work. Knowledge gleaned from sports talk sustained me through dozens of chest-thumping debates with my co-workers during the NHL play-offs even though I haven't seen a hockey game in three years.
When Operation: Annex Iraq commenced, I took some time off the sports stations and listened to public radio for war updates, opinions, and other pressing stuff. The NBA draft seemed irrelevant while we were bludgeoning our way to Baghdad . After our Jackass-in-Chief dressed up like a fighter pilot and told us the war was over, I tried to go back to sports talk. But Lou, Irv, Joe, Dave, Scott, CJ, and Stinky had lost their hold over me. Their testosteronic posturings seemed vapid, vacuous and dumb. That night I went to sleep without the radio on. As I drifted into dreamland, I started thinking.
There is one professional football team in Colorado .
There are a lot of bands in Colorado . In fact, the website of the Colorado Music Association (COMA), lists approximately 1,114 of them. One can safely assume there are three times that many who haven't registered with COMA. Toss in a couple hundred just to be sure and I'm comfortable saying there are five thousand bands in Colorado .
There is one professional football stadium in Colorado .
The COMA site lists around 177 music venues. I'll round up to an even 200.
Every Broncos game is broadcast across the state on TV and several radio stations.
As far as I know, there is exactly one radio station (am 1190) that plays local music with any frequency.
The Denver Broncos sell over 75,000 tickets to around ten games per year (counting pre-season and playoffs). 750,000 per year.
Denver 's finest bands have trouble filling the 700 seat Bluebird Theater four times a year.
However, consider this. If 150 bands play shows in Colorado every Friday and Saturday and the average attendance is 30 people, the number of people who go to weekend shows in this fair state is 468,000 per year. Toss in another 75 bands with 15 people per audience Sunday through Thursday (292,500) and we're looking at 760,500 people attending and supporting local music in Colorado every year. That's 10,500 more people than go to Broncos games.
All this is managed without a drop of help from the government.
The Broncos, on the other hand, got $300,000,000 to build their stadium because they bring so much money and pride into the city of Denver and—by extension—the state of Colorado. It also helped that Pat Bowlen threatened to move the team unless taxpayers approved this aid.
Pat Bowlen, owner of the Broncos, is a Republican who endorsed George Bush Jr. as president. Republicans traditionally reject government hand-outs.
Musicians tend to lean toward the left, which is more accepting of socialism, welfare, spread the wealth, give to the needy. Call me crazy, but I can't remember the last time the government gave $300 million to Colorado music. I'm pretty sure they'd accept it.
It's as if local musicians and professional athletes inhabit two separate universes. Strange, because they're really not all that different; both exist solely to entertain us. So why isn't Devotchka held in the same regard as Rod Smith? It's not a government conspiracy. It's because there are 5000 bands in Colorado and there are only two starting wide-outs for the Broncos. The NFL accepts only the finest. With the world's elite athletes on the payroll, the major markets can squeeze out any competition, which allows them to demand prime dollars for their product, which allows for zillion dollar contracts.
In contrast, Music takes anyone. Consequently, there are 5000 bands of wildly divergent competence and style and composition. Music spreads the wealth; sports focus it in the hands of a few dozen individuals. As an outlet for the talents of the Everyman, music is superior to football; girls and boys can play in bands together and nobody trades human beings for a fifth round draft pick and future considerations.
So, in spite of appearances to the contrary, you don't have to worry; Denver 's music scene is thriving, Broncos be damned.
It's tempting to imagine how vital the scene would be if the government spent $300 million to subsidize it. Supported all-ages venues. Promoted concerts. Encouraged music education in schools. I don't know what you could do with that much money. There'd probably be too much. Damn, some of it might get channeled to education or mass transit, or hell, some thing. Don't ask me, I'm just a tinhorn musician.
Screw it. Give the money to Pat Bowlen. He needs it more. Without his stadium, we'd have no Broncos. Without the Broncos we'd have too much spare time. We might even start thinking.
Take me, for instance. I think I'll never listen to sports talk again.
Bassist for Tramps Like Us
--Strapping Danforth, October, 2003
Sent: Monday, September 08, 2003 4:34 PM
Subject: October Danforth
Here's the October article. Also, I know you're busy, but I remember in June you said that in two months you'd have more information regarding raises. Strapping wanted me to let you know that this is September.