Thursday, October 29, 2009

Snowy Circumstances Remind Us of 1997

Here at the Rapids offices on this blustery day, we're watching the snow pile up around the stadium.

Interesting of note today is the fact that this current snowstorm is the biggest October snowmaker in the Denver area since 1997.

Why is that significant to Rapids fans?

Well, back in the early stages of MLS, the league's championship match was played about 1 month earlier than it currently is. In fact, the date of MLS Cup 1997 was on October 26, to be exact, which this year is already past.

And who was in that year's final? Your Rapids of course, facing off against DC United. The Rapids had made a Cinderella run through the playoffs, destroying Kansas City and then Dallas in spectacular fashion on their way to the final.

In 1997, DC had the distinct unfair advantage of being able to play for the championship in their home stadium, as the Cup Final was being held at RFK Stadium.

Making matters worse for Colorado fans was that landmark snowstorm in Denver in '97...the third largest snowstorm in state history.

Luckily for the team, the Rapids players and team staff had made it out to DC easily earlier in the week to train ahead of the match.

Several Rapids interns from the club's front office had pooled their money and flew out on Thursday ahead of that Sunday's match, probably the last ones to get out of town ahead of the storm.

As that fateful week ended, and fans and Rapids staffers who were planning to fly out on the weekend to the match tried to get out of town, the "Great Snowstorm of 1997" blew in. Snow up to 2 feet piled up around the city, with drifts of up to 15 feet on roadsides. 5 deaths occurred in Colorado as a result of the storm, and the city essentially shut down.

What that meant for fans and staff unfortunately was that nobody was getting on a plane.

Airline delays and cancellations meant that the overwhelmingly home crowd at RFK Stadium would have no visiting supporters to face off against, and the Rapids, who already had the dack stacked against them playing at an away venue, had almost literally zero supporters in the stands that day.

The persistent Rapids staffers that managed to somehow find a flight out of Denver on Sunday morning would arrive at RFK Stadium well after halftime of the match.

As you may recall, the Rapids played a tight game that day in the pouring freezing rain in DC. A goal by Adrian Paz (still the only Rapids player to score in a Cup final) and some near misses (including a spectacular bicycle kick attempt by Marcelo Balboa) put the Rapids close, but their magical run of '97 came to an end as the game ended 2-1 to the bad guys.

The lucky Rapids fans and staff who made it to DC that night retreated to the team hotel in DC for a special post-game reception with the coaches and players, and despite the loss, a good evening was had by all.

After all, nobody was in any rush to return to least until the city dug out!


Bonji said...
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Jordan said...

You forgot the most obvious excuse to why you didn't win a championship. You were not the better team that year.