On the evening of Dec. 4, the bleachers of the Auraria Event Center were not pulled out. There was no need for them. The Roadrunners weren’t there that night. Yet, there was still pandemonium when the final buzzer sounded from the middle court that was emblazoned with the MSU Denver logo. What was left was a group of seven men in basketball shorts and each with their own variation of a white top celebrating, and an order for jerseys to be filled.
Underdogs no longer, the aptly named team had just triumphed over the CU Denver Lynx men’s club team in the finals of Campus Recreation’s intramural basketball league. Over the course of 10 weeks, the league whittled its way down from 12 teams to just one in a successful initial campaign under Program Development Coordinator Miki Summers. And while it may have not been club level or higher, the final night of events featured close competition that drew emotions out of the recreational athletes.
“Anything in life that you do, you’re always competitive,” said Underdogs captain Alejandro Jimenez after the team’s victory. “We understand it’s intramurals. We understand we’re here for fun and nobody needs to get hurt. But, at the end of the day it is a competition. There is a scoreboard up there.”
In the finals matchup, the two teams were separated by a handful of points deep into the game, inducing anxiety and stress in the players that led to a scuffle and several personal fouls for language and roughhousing.
It was clear: both teams were invested, even if it was a rec league.
“The only difference is you’re playing against friends you meet out on the street,” CU Denver club head coach Gordon Stevens said. “It’s the same level. Same competitiveness, if not more.”
The finals proved to skew toward “more,” prompting Summers to spring from his seat in the balcony and hustle down the stairs to ensure things did not get out of hand. He wasn’t about to let an all-around solid campaign turn sour in the final minutes of a 10-week endeavor.
Summers, in his first year in his position, watched as the intramurals program’s headlining league apexed into a heated contest that was captivating until the end, a surprising standard for the rec league. In seeding play, four teams tied for second place, only one victory behind No. 1 CU Denver. Even with the inclusion of a legitimate club team that participates in sanctioned tournaments, the talent level was not skewed in favor of a small minority.
“It’s a higher brand of competition than you normally see in an intramural program just because it’s a smaller tri-institution that a lot of people want to play,” Summers said.
The shared campus and league of MSU Denver, CU Denver and Community College of Denver allows for a unique intramurals experience. The Lynx wore school-branded uniforms, while their opponents in the finals donned varying forms of white shirts, from tanktops to pennies. In the semifinals, the Lynx bested the team Warren’s Waffle House, who wore their Campus Rec jerseys they earned for winning last year’s tournament. Other teams in the league featured names like Lavar Ballers and D Up for Harambe.
The creativity that goes into some of the names eludes even some of the players.
“You know what, I have no idea,” said Destin Brave, member of the team Warren’s Waffle House, when asked about the name. “They never told me. I guess they like going to the Waffle House to eat or something.”
Brave’s teammate Oliver Zettas later explained that it was in homage to a junior varsity coach several players on the team had while playing at East High School.
With the quirks, fun and competition successfully blended, Campus Recreation is turning that momentum into more programs available to students, beginning with volleyball and indoor soccer in the spring semester. Summers also envisions expansions that include more community involvement, like a bowling or curling league that would require off-campus resources. They hope to repeat the success following that same model.