DENVER - Identity is something that has eluded the Colorado Rockies throughout much of their quarter century existence. Sure there is the purple and the dinosaur mascot, but there isn't anything audacious or too memorable about the Denver Nine aside from their park's location relative to sea level.
The few things that have made up the Rockies identity have added up for those who have paid close attention. And quickly the Rockies identity is becoming partly tied to those who have paid attention through all the relative nothingness. This community, the ones pay close attention, often congregate online.
It's not ballfields or bars where the Rockies fans are most brash; it's on Twitter. And it's become increasingly clear that the group of people that make up "Rockies Twitter"— the group of accounts which are always tweeting about this club—have created an environment that's unlike any other on the internet.
"It’s like a more mature junior high school," Bryan Kilpatrick, head honcho of Purple Row said. "You’ve got a lot of funny things that turn into inside jokes, some relationships that get kind of weird, there’s some drama that needs to get sorted out from time to time, but it’s this big stupid echo chamber."
"Don’t come," Julian Valentin, the man who runs the official Colorado Rockies Twitter account advised. "They (a newcomer) wouldn’t understand it quite frankly, there’s so many little inside jokes and so many unique little things that go on that you really have to be entrenched in it. But that’s what’s so great is all the people who get all the inside jokes and get all the little bits of humor and things like that, it’s a ton of fun. Good people, and we all rally around our love for the Rockies."
The club's official Twitter account has just under 420,000 followers, but it's a select group of around a hundred that make up Rockies Twitter.
These dozens of people are the ones that have created such popular memes as:
"taco's": For when the Rockies score seven runs as a joke on an almost decade's old tweet and Taco Bell's promotion.
coors: Anytime someone tries to belittle an accomplish due to the club's park.
Every day is John Elway's birthday: A joke with an unclear origin but the most prominent about the Denver Media's refusal to acknowledge anything aside from the Broncos.
versatile: A play on General Manger Jeff Bridch saying 'versatile' at least 15 times during Ian Desmond's introductory press conference.
There is also "wombats" for wins, "the Rockies drafted Greg Reynolds ahead of Evan Longoria," the questioning of David Dahl's existence, the fact that @JakeMcGee's Twitter account is, well just see for yourself, "leather daddies" for the Rockies' Gold Glovers, to the multitude of popular photos and much more.
While there will always be too many inside jokes to explain in one place, it's the people that made these and continue every day, win, lose, rain or shine that are at the core.
"These are the people that have been riding and dying with the Rockies every single year no matter what happens," Vice President of BSN Denver and Broncos beat writer Ryan Koenigsberg said.
"I have noticed what makes that Twitter community great is that the Rockies have been bad for so long that the fans have become self-deprecating," Koenigsberg continued. "Compared to teams like the Broncos the fans feel deserving of something. Rockies fans don't feel like they deserve anything so when good things happen everyone can get excited together when bad things happen everybody can joke about it together. That's what makes it special."
It's this—something Koenigsberg and I have talked extensively about—that makes the current incarnation of Rockies fans special. They have been through so much that all that's left of the Rockies fan base right now is the purest form of fan and follower.
"I've never really thought about it that way," Kilpatrick responded. "I think it really is because we’ve been together through the losing, we found things to laugh about and what not, the jokes come easy, the levity comes easy. It has a lot to do with just tweeting through it. Tweet though it, like talking through it if you thrive in real life relationships, we tweet through it."
Twitter topped 50 million active users in the fourth quarter of 2010, coinciding with the most painful play in the history of the club as they collapsed from sure postseason spot to 83 wins in the course of one month. Ever since then, the Rockies have been nothing short of awful, stretches of .500 baseball, not seasons, were celebrated. And that is the environment that Rockies Twitter has been born and frankly the only one it has ever known.
Where does this stem from? Personally, I give a lot of credit to Purple Row.
"I give a lot of credit to Julian and the entire Rockies social media team, they take it lightly," Kilpatrick said. "They like to have fun and they jump into the stupid conversations we have which pulls more people in. It's like 'holy crap I have a Major League Baseball team responding to my stupid joke on Twitter.' I'm trying to think back to when this all started and Purple Dinosaur Podcast is part of this, but when I first started tweeting from Purple Row it really picked up. PDP, Dan Lucero, Kyle Bishop, then you, Bobby (DeMuro) and Connor (Farrell) came around and it really blew up. We're all a lot alike and appreciate many of the same things but we're so different that we're all arguing. We're like brothers, siblings that get in stupid and insane arguments, it gets embarrassing but it kinda adds to the fun."
What does the Rockies social team think of their weird online friends?
"We do a lot of listening, on social media across the board, on all platforms," Valentin said. "We want to know what people are saying because the Rockies Twitter community is a huge part of our club and who we are. We definitely try to play into some of those things that already organically exist within our fan base. Sometimes, there are things that we start, and then the fans adopt, so it works both ways. I think it all starts with being in tune with who your fans are, staying in tune with your fan base and what’s important to them.”
Valentin doesn't give himself enough credit for not only listening and interacting but encouraging the community to be wild.
Possibly the most public display of Rockies Twitter's weirdness was the Rockies Twitter Tournament where Kilpatrick ranked each account and used the Twitter poll feature to have them face off against each other in what amounted to a more maddening version of March Madness.
"John Reidy was messing around and doing one for the Broncos, and I think Mile High Report started it so I decided to post a tease of the top 16 for the Rockies and it took on a life of its own," Kilpatrick said. "Julian messaged me and said he thought it was a good idea. Ted (Chalfen) decided to make some graphics. It got crazy; I spent a full day unveiling everything and writing something nice about every person. I put way too much work into something so stupid but it got people talking, and it pulled more people in and that's cool."
Kilpatrick might be both the community's biggest advocate and it's warmest steward.
“I’ve found myself explaining inside jokes and memes relating to the Rockies more and more this season compared to past ones," he said. "Every night I'm explaining "taco's", coors ... I think people get it and thrive off of. Winning is going to make it not such an exclusive group for sure. The Rockies are going to do what we’re not used to them doing, winning a bunch, and everyone gets more interested, which benefits people like you and me. But it could make everything less fun because with winning comes people becoming spoiled and it turns into Cardinals Twitter."
Certainly, the Rockies winning will not bother anyone in Denver but it's funny to consider that because the team is headed towards success one of it's more loyal communities will be infringed upon.
"The most dedicated Rockies fans are going to be annoyed by the media members that come in and don't really know what they're talking about and then try to cover the team," Koenigsberg said. "The people that have been there all along are going to know the team better. When a fanbase has gone through a struggle, it makes the come up that much more rewarding.
"I'll be honest, I was five-years-old when the Broncos won the Super Bowl in 1997, from then on it's been nothing but good. Those fans that were Broncos fans their whole life and they lived through the 1970s and 80s it's so much more rewarding for them because they've seen the heartbreak. I think the Rockies fanbase will have a real cool time but you have to embrace the bandwagon because Denver is a city that will jump on with any team that is good. For those fans that have been through it all this experience of the team finally being legitimately good, it's not a fluke thing, this is a whole season, for it to stay this way, it's going to be rewarding. You don't get seasons like this."
While winning might pull the community apart in a way, right now, it's more than happy with the success of the team they discuss every day. Rockies Twitter is also more than happy to welcome any newcomer or try to throw some jokes over their head.
"You start to get to know these people," Koenigsberg said. "These people run into each other at the Blake Street Taverns of the world, or at Coors Field. It becomes an actual community rather than a bunch of people you just know by a screen name, there's an actual community, a brotherhood to the online area we are talking about, and that's what makes people come back. You joke about having online friends, these people actually became friends, it's like coming to the local watering hole to come chat Rockies with your friends and that's the community that has been built."
"There's the whole meeting these people in person and hanging out with them at the games, becoming friends in a way," Kilpatrick struck the same chord. "It's all good things."
Rockies Twitter makes one ask the question; maybe it's not about whether the team we like wins or loses, maybe what really matters is the friends we made along the way.
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