By Ed Otte
“I’m Denver Post sports columnist Benjamin Hochman and the sixteenth funniest Jew in Colorado. They asked several people to do this, even the janitor at The Denver Post turned them down, so I’m here tonight.”
Those opening comments set the tone for the Oct. 1 Fireside Chat at the Denver Press Club. Hochman, who joined The Post in 2007, also does stand-up comedy in the Denver area.
Denver 8 TV taped the program, which was sponsored by the Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and it will be broadcast at a later date.
“I came (to Denver) because, well, I like Coors,” he said. “When I started at The Post, I covered the Nuggets and I jinxed them because they’ve never done anything since then.”
Hochman, 34, credited fellow Post sports columnist Woody Paige – sort of – for his journey from the New Orleans Times-Picayune to The Denver Post. “In 2004 I watched this weird guy on TV screaming. That was Woody. That’s how I learned about Denver. He sets the tone, he’s our brand. What I love about Woody is his passion and, how can I say this on TV, his cojones.”
Asked whether he has ever been reluctant to criticize an athlete, Hochman mentioned a former Nuggets player. “I wrote he was a matador on defense. He hated me because he was anti-Semitic. No, not really. But he did use the f-word to my face the next time I saw him.”
“When people ask me what is the top sports team in Denver, I tell them the Broncos are No. 1, the Broncos are No. 2 and anything else doing well now is No. 3. I can write about anything – as long as it’s the Broncos. I believe the Broncos will win the Super Bowl. I wrote that last year? I didn’t write that, Frodo wrote that. Von Miller is a game changer. By January, if he’s back to 2012 Von Miller and if they don’t have injuries, I think they can win the Super Bowl.”
“I grew up in St. Louis and I learned about baseball with the Cardinals. People in Denver have the Rooftop (at Coors Field). That’s like a big bar in LoDo. At the Rooftop, the game isn’t on TV, it’s right in front of you. The Rockies are a Major League team but not run like one. They cannot draft and they cannot develop players. The quandry is that attendance is still middle of the pack, they’re still turning a profit. But if you were really bad since the late 1990s – with only two successes (2007 and 2009) – don’t you think most people in the galaxy would say we need to replace this guy.”
“For you as a (Rockies) fan, goodness gracious, can’t they fix the problem. (Owner Dick) Monfort is a square peg in a round hole kind of thing. He won’t fire anyone. If you can get a job there, you’re good to go. You’ve got a job for 40 years.”
“Yes, my hair looks different now. I shaved the sides earlier because (Post sportswriter) Adrian Dater shaves the sides of his head. I tried that and the only person who said it looked good was no one. Adrian can do it because he’s cool. That’s probably the only time I’ve said Adrian Dater and cool in the same sentence.”
“It’s amazing to think back to some of the sports heroes we knew and now they’re doing things like putting their keys in the refrigerator. We can’t imagine how life altering one concussion is, let alone several. It takes a certain breed of men to play football. The attitude is ‘it won’t happen to me.’ Pro athletes are wired differently. To win the Super Bowl, they push aside the ‘what if’ of concussions. Unless a superstar’s career is ended by a concussion, people won’t care. But if the Broncos win the Super Bowl, would Wes Welker remember it?”
“We’re a society that loves gladiators. Football is a perfect vehicle for that. You want to see this carnage. Football will always be a billion dollar industry but youth football will change because familes will be concerned (about head injuries). Does the NFL care? I think they care, but they’re businessmen.”
“I literally wanted to be a sports columnist since I was eight years old. The job of a columnist is to make people think, laugh and cry. It’s a cool honor to be a journalist and tell stories for a living. If I’m still writing a column in 10 years, I want my photo to be the slim one. Even if I get fat, I’d want the slim photo. When I lived in New Orleans, I ate everything. I was fat.”
“(Hurricane) Katrina was a heck of a wake-up call for me as a journalist. Katrina taught me to seize the day. It taught me about the fragility of life. As a storyteller, it taught me about actually writing a story that affects a reader. I was honored to help tell the story. I wrote ‘Fourth and New Orleans’ about the Tulane football team’s 2005 season. They played 11 games in 11 weeks in 11 different cities because they couldn’t play in their stadium.”
“If the name of your team offends a lot of people, why don’t you change it? The word Redskins was offensive in the 1950s, in the 1970s. If the NFL announced in a press conference that a team was to be in Los Angeles and they said the name of the team was the blackskins or brownskins or yellowskins – imagine if a person said that.”