It was apparent to me as I sat a mile high that this CSU-CU rivalry is slowly, but surely dying.
There were massive gaps between sections at Sports Authority Field at Mile High from the lower bowl all the way up to the nose bleeds. In fact the 57,138 people in attendance (allegedly) are the lowest number of spectators in the history of the Rocky Mountain Showdown at Mile High.
A number that has been steadily declining since the rivalry peaked in 2003 with more than 76,000 fans.
Beyond the poor turnout for the game, there just wasnâ€™t that feelingâ€“â€“that feeling of mutual loathing that saturates the air of a big time rivalry. There were no heated arguments before the game, not a single chant battle across the stadium, or even drunken heckling from the winning side to the losers. Not that I heard.
Itâ€™s not just this year either that Iâ€™ve begun noticing the steady decline of hostility between the Rams and Buffs. Over the past three or four years, with the exception of the Showdown at Folsom Field in Boulder, Iâ€™ve detected a sense of apathy for the game.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I couldnâ€™t get from the parking lot to the stadium without being accosted by Rams fans at least 100 times. That was just the trip to the stadium. Once we got in it only intensified.
Seriously, I was only a kid, maybe 10 or 11, and half-drunken college students heckled me for wearing Buffs gear from head to toe. Telling me to go back to Boulder (Iâ€™m not from Boulder by the way), an occasional crude hand gesture involving a finger and even the occasional â€œGo to hell!â€
But why is it that the Rocky Mountain Showdown is losing its luster? It canâ€™t be the teamsâ€™ records in recent years. CSU used to say that if it didnâ€™t win but one game all year it had better be against CU. Showdowns over the past decade or so have been more competitive than at any other period of time, so a one-sided rivalry hasnâ€™t existed.
It must go beyond the people in the stands to the people on the field.
I donâ€™t want to put all the blame on the fans. Last time I checked there are still Colorado kids playing for CSU and CU. Colorado kids that should understand what this game used to mean. The passion on the field for this rivalry is every bit as important as the significance placed on it by the fans.
Even with two head coaches returning to their alma maters, coaching the very game they once played in, donâ€™t appear to be terribly interested.
CU coach Jon Embree admitted the rivalry game was missing something saying, â€œI donâ€™t think it was as intense as it needed to be.â€
When CSU coach Steve Fairchild was asked whether he was disappointed that CSU fans didnâ€™t really show up for the game, he shrugged it off saying it wasnâ€™t important to him how many fans showed up.
â€œI hear them (the fans); I donâ€™t count them. I donâ€™t spend too much time looking at them.â€
He felt, â€œthere were enough people there to provide an atmosphere,â€ but those in attendance, I believe, would disagree.
Iâ€™ve long been a proponent of keeping the Showdown in Denver, but if this trend of indifference continues, maybe playing the games in Fort Collins and Boulder is the answer to breathing life back into Coloradoâ€™s football showcase.
It worked in 2009 when we travelled down to Boulder and upset the Buffs in their house. Rushing the field, added fuel to the fire. Possibly forcing players and fans alike into hostile territory will ignite this rivalry to its former glory.
Itâ€™s worth a shot because if this trend continues there wonâ€™t be a rivalry to care about.
Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at email@example.com.