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Denver Nuggets: The Middle Child

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The second entry into Denver's pro sports ecosystem sure is treated like the kid in the middle

D.J. Augustin not seeing much love as the man in the middle, either...
D.J. Augustin not seeing much love as the man in the middle, either...
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

My wife spent most of her childhood competing for time and attention at home, more often than not being the "third fiddle" to her brother and sister. She's certainly not unusual in that regard, as she's a middle child.

The malaise of the middle child is the stuff of legend, with the eldest always being the kid who's trailblazing and setting all the "firsts", while the youngest brings up the rear with all the sentimental "lasts" that being the baby brings. Years of study show that middle children are more often left out, ignored, an afterthought, and just plain stinky.

Just seeing if you were still paying attention.

The Denver Nuggets are decidedly suffering from something resembling middle child syndrome in the Colorado sports landscape, with the eldest sibling being the NFL's Broncos, who have not only been trailblazing the sports landscape in Denver for years, but also have some shiny new championship hardware to show off to the adoring Colorado fans. The adoration and adulation of the Broncos in Colorado permeates daily life in the region, and with their recent Super Bowl win, all eyes are focused on the Broncos 365 days a year. I'm a Broncos fan, and am enjoying the post-Championship haze, but as a Nuggets diehard, would love that sort of haze be cast on the next sibling down.

The baby of the family would probably be the Colorado Rockies, who made Colorado a three-sport town in 1991. Similar to the amount of leeway usually given a youngest child, the Rockies enjoyed sellout crowds for years, and still tend to have a larger fan base than their record might always support. As a Rockies follower, several of the mutual fans I've spoken with will still mention the feelings of warmth and nostalgia they feel from a summer afternoon or evening spent at Coors Field, regardless of the team's record or place in the standings. Though some of that fan latitude has slipped away over several lean years, the Rockies still enjoy a fan loyalty that the Nuggets would kill for.

What about the NHL's Colorado Avalanche? To be fair, they are actually the youngest kids on the Denver block (1995), and would literally be the "baby", no? Well, probably so, but they don't fit the neat little paradigm I'm desperately trying to shoehorn this article into, so we'll label them the adopted cousin who's moved into the basement. By the way, that adopted cousin (a decent metaphor for the NHL's general popularity amongst the Big Four sports) garnered a fair bit better attendance than our middle-child Nuggets this past season, outpacing them by just over 20% -€” an average of 17,032 to 14,095. Under the same roof. Oof. Even if they are the baby of the foursome, they're still seeing more love than your Nuggets.

That Nuggets attendance figure was the worst in basketball this season, with over half again as many fans (21, 820) making it to see the Chicago Bulls, who were first in attendance amongst NBA crowds this season. That United Center staff was damned busy as well, as the Blackhawks also topped the NHL's attendance list.

Well, bull-y for Chicago. The Nuggets woes were not limited to in-house attendance either, with no nationally televised games this season and a dead-last showing in web-related searches and traffic, as covered by Adam Mares at season's end. A conversation around the team seem just as likely to be greeted by a, "who?" as any meaningful dialogue.

Classic middle child. Marginalized. Ignored. Grounded for almost burning the house down... Sorry, that last bit wasn't the Nuggets, but another middle child I know.

Several wise voices amongst Nuggets Nation whisper that a lack of success is all that ails the team, and that the crowds and attention will return when the wins start coming. But other Denver teams seem to see a larger fanbase in lean times. What does Denver's middle child need to do to start winning back their fans besides amping up their win totals? They'll never be the center of attention in Broncos country, but have reached lows they've not seen in a while.

The saddest part...€” if you're reading this, you're likely not a part of the "problem". You're one of the few broken individuals left who actually seek out Denver Nuggets content, news, and commentary. But as part of the few and wretched refuse, the middle brother could use a few more brethren back amongst the fold. Winning is king in this market, but what else do the Nuggets need to do to get family, friends, and neighbors to pay attention again? Like it or not, the fanbase -€” or lack thereof - can play a key role in attracting talent to a team. Are we back on the cusp of winning back some attention, or are things at risk of drying up even further? The kid in the middle could use a little love.