Woody Paige waits for a homerun ball in 1998.

Woody Paige’s final Denver Post column: Looking back at 35 years

“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”
— Kurt Vonnegut

When I was born 70 years ago, I slept in a drawer in my grandmother’s kitchen.

I’ve lived on the edge ever since.

Sixteen years ago in Australia, where The Denver Post had sent me to cover the Summer Olympics, I chose to travel by planes, car and foot almost a thousand miles to the Outback and the setting for the “Mad Max’’ movies.

Holding a loaf of bread, I stood atop a red-clay hill on the edge of nowhere.

Surrounded by 200 wild, hungry kangaroos.

My cellphone rang.

“What are you doing, Drow?’’ my friend Tim Schmidt said from far away in Denver.

“I’m sort of up to my (posterior) in kangaroos.”

“No, really, are you at the track finals?”

“Really. I asked a ranger where I could touch kangaroos. He handed me a loaf of bread, sent me five miles down the road and told me to wait for sunset. Be careful what you wish for.’’

“OK, so you’re in a bar in Sydney. Talk to you later,’’ Tim said and hung up.

That’s been my life since joining The Denver Post as a columnist 35 years ago.

Fifteen years ago next month I was right on the spot of Ground Zero covering the aftermath of 9/11. Ten days later I was writing about a Broncos football game in Arizona.

A day after my birthday 19 years ago, I watched Mike Tyson bite a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear, and do it again the next round. Thirty-four years ago I saw an amazing young quarterback throw passes for Stanford, and I announced to Broncos coach Dan Reeves the next Monday: “I’ve just witnessed the future of the NFL, and his name is John Elway.’’

Seventeen years ago I was at Columbine High School the day of a terrible shooting massacre, and four years ago I was at an Aurora theater the night of another horrific shooting bloodbath.

Twenty-four years ago I was with the Dream Team in Monte Carlo and played blackjack alongside Michael Jordan, and 18 years ago I was on the sideline when Pat Bowlen shouted: “This one’s for John.’’

Twenty years ago I was amazed in South Florida when the Avalanche won Denver’s first championship in one of the four major professional sports. Five years earlier I was amazed when Colorado beat Notre Dame in South Florida for the Buffaloes’ first, and only, national championship in football.  Eight years later I was amazed in South Florida when the Broncos won their second world championship — against Dan Reeves’ team.


Denver Post File

Woody Paige was a columnist at the Denver Post for 35 years.

Thirty-two years ago I covered Olympics in Los Angeles and Sarajevo.

Over the past 35 years I was fortunate The Denver Post paid for me to go to dozens of Super Bowls and hundreds of other major sports events — World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, Triple Crown races, Indianapolis 500s and NASCAR races, Winter and Summer Games on four continents, NCAA national championships in football and basketball, Masters, U.S. Opens, British Opens, Wimbledons, U.S. (tennis) Opens, world skiing championships, heavyweight title fights, the Tour de France, World Cups, five Democratic and Republican conventions, events in 41 states, the Colorado state high school wrestling championships and the 8-man football championship in Woodrow.

Over the years I’ve flown with the United States Navy’s Blue Angels, competed in two harness races, played in PGA pro-ams with Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, driven a pace car during practice at Indy, lost a camel race, played a clown (no stretch) in the Ringling Bros. circus, drank beer with Jimmy Buffet, served as a roadie at a Jackson Five reunion tour concert, did shots with the Irish band U2, appeared in the movies “Rocky Balboa’’ and “Nebraska’’ and hung out with my boyhood sports idol — Bob Cousy.

Woody Paige

Denver Post file

DENVER, CO – MAY 26: Denver Post employee Woody Paige on Thursday, May 26, 2016 (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post)

My favorite places in the world to visit have been Florence, Italy; Dublin, Ireland; the Big Island of Hawaii; Lincoln, Neb.; and Broken Hill, Australia. My favorite stadiums on a Saturday afternoon are West Point, Annapolis and Colorado Springs, and the original Olympiastadion in Greece.

My favorite athletes to watch and talk to were Julius Erving, Bobby Jones, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Tom Jackson, Chris Harris, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Dante Bichette, Doak Walker and Peyton Manning. Tim Tebow was something. Rulon Gardner was something else.

Sixteen years ago, a few days after I finally escaped the kangaroos and the Outback, I went to see a young American who had reached the finals in the heavyweight division of Greco-Roman wresting at the Olympics in Sydney. Nobody else from The Denver Post or any other newspaper wanted to cover the event because Gardner’s opponent was the greatest Olympic wrestler of all time — Soviet/Russian bear Aleksandr Karelin, who had won three gold medals in the Games and hadn’t been beaten in 13 years of competition.

Gardner — who was born and raised in Wyoming, played football for the Cornhuskers and trained at the U.S. Olympic Center in Colorado Springs — beat Karelin in the greatest individual upset in the history of the Olympics.

He did a backflip immediately after — and was the happiest athlete I’ve ever met. He and his farm family, members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, were the most sensational interview subjects. Rulon and I remain friends after the magical, mythical, miraculous story read ’round the world.

Kiszla: Can Avalanche build a dynasty despite harsh economic realities of NHL? Previous post Kiszla: Can Avalanche build a dynasty despite harsh economic realities of NHL?
Regis Jesuit’s Bo Weiss is the 2016 Dick Connor ACE Award winner Next post Regis Jesuit’s Bo Weiss is the 2016 Dick Connor ACE Award winner