Sentinel Blogs

January 8, 2015

I knew as soon as I picked up the phone what the caller really wanted to say about the horrific slaughter at a French satirical newspaper on Wednesday.

“Has anyone asked the Muslims at the Aurora mosque what they think of the shooting?” the woman asked.

I explained that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks much of the community, and this newspaper, has become enlightened about Islam and its role in Aurora. Just because Muslim radicals commit heinous crimes, it has no bearing on those Muslims living in Aurora and being part of the Colorado Muslim Society mosque on Parker Road.

She wasn’t happy with that. She talked about all the horrible things in the world, and now this attack on a French newspaper, being the work of Islam. She insisted we find Muslims in Aurora to comment on the French calamity.

I explained how illogical her request was. We don’t run to the nearest Jewish temple when tragic things happen in Israel and Palestine. It would have no bearing. We do not race to a spate of Christian churches for comment on the latest atrocity committed by the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas or whatever new lunatic thing Focus on the Family says to do to gays.

She was not convinced. She went on to insist that Islam is at the heart of every violent episode in the world. She wanted to hear Muslims in Aurora either renounce what their fellow Muslims were responsible for, or reinforce what she suspected, that they quietly support attacks like what happened in France.

“Violence against journalists comes from everywhere,” I said. “It comes from Americans who could never conceive of even learning about Muslims, let alone becoming one.”

She wasn’t interested.

For the last two years, more than 130 journalists have been killed, and not just in hot spots like Afghanistan and Syria. Journalists are killed all over the world, even in places like the Philippines, Europe and the United States. And for every journalist murdered, thousands more get death threats, including me and my staff.

Most of the threats are kind of laughable. Angry pet owners threaten to have their dog chew my face off for columns I’ve written in support of the city’s ban on pit bulls. Readers threaten to take me out or down or for a long ride for my options about immigrants, gays, racism or religion.

But there are threats that make me very afraid. Most of those come from columns I’ve written about gun control. Ever since the Aurora theater massacre, we, like so many Colorado media, write a lot about the issue. I talk about my opinions on local, national and international talk shows and news shows. I write serious, insistent editorials. I write snarky columns, and I write satire.

One satirical piece I wrote about a year ago had to do with members of the U.S. Senate caving into pressure by the NRA to ignore gun control legislation, even after the calamity at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. I essentially lauded a list of conservative newspapers across the country for lambasting the Senate and the NRA for cheating Americans out of expanded handgun registration laws.

What I got was hundreds and hundreds of emails, letters and messages, mostly denouncing me as a traitor, an idiot or an ass. But I also got dozens of letters explicitly detailing how I would or should die for my columns. For the most part, I shrugged them off. But there were several that were pointed, pervasive and unnerving. The phone calls are always the worst. Callers say they know where I live, what I’m wearing, what I drive, where I go, even where I sit in the office. These aren’t insane Muslim radicals bent on killing me because I think their adulation of Muhammad or anyone else is dangerous and misguided. These threats come from people you grew up with that claim to be “good Christians” and “good Americans.”

They make me sick and afraid mostly because they involve my family and my colleagues. They come from people who seethe and drip with the unhinged and crazy anger that I imagine propelled the monsters that murdered cartoonists, journalists and cops at Charlie Hebdo this week.

I’ve included a sound file here so you can hear for yourself what some of these non-Muslims are like.

http://www.aurorasentinel.com/asuplads/Death-Threat.m4a

CLICK TO HEAR A CALLER WHO CONSIDERS HIMSELF A ‘GOOD’ AMERICAN MAKE VULGAR THREATS OVER A SATIRICAL GUN CONTROL COLUMN — Warning: The message is graphically profane and uses disturbing, racist language.

This particular caller was enraged about gun control, but the hate erupts over endless topics. Be warned, the caller is vulgar, vile and prolific in his use of racist, sexual and graphic profanity.

Is this guy representative of American gun owners and members of the NRA? No. I got plenty of heat and even kudos from gun enthusiasts all over the country, most of them weren’t threatening in any way. It never occurred to me to race down to the nearest shooting range and get their take on the rant of some gun nut.

But this bully’s intent is clear. He wants to shut me up, and others like me. The menacing urge to bully people into enjoying free speech that only agrees with our own is hardly unique to radical Muslim criminals. It’s alive and well right here at home and in your own community, compliments of a wide range of radical nut cases.

Reach Editor Dave Perry at 303-750-7555 or dperry@aurorasentinel.com

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I woke up this morning to the news of the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo Magazine office in Paris. Twelve people were killed and eleven wounded, including two of my French cartoonist friends, Tignous and Wolinski. Cartoonists around the world are grieving.

Americans treat editorial cartoons as a trivial daily joke in the newspaper — in France, editorial cartoons and loved and respected. The Louvre has a branch museum devoted to cartoons; imagine if the Smithsonian had a cartoon museum, that’s the way cartoons are revered in France.

“Charlie Hebdo” is a silly name; it is a weekly magazine filled with editorial cartoons, easily found on news stands everywhere in France. “Hebdo” means “weekly” in French, and “Charlie” comes from France’s love for the comic strip “Peanuts” and Charlie Brown — therefore “Charlie Hebdo.” The top cartoonists in France vie to be on the pages of Charlie Hebdo.

There are cartoon festivals all over France — the best one for political cartoonists is in the small town of St Just le Martel; I’ve been attending for years, along with other cartoonists I syndicate. The townspeople pitch in to throw a festival for the editorial cartoonists every year; villagers put cartoonists up in their homes, and they award a live cow to the “Humor Vache” cartoonist of the year. One greatly respected winner of the cow was Georges Wolinski, a brilliant cartoonist with a masterful loose, swishy, wordy style, highly respected by the French. We were fellow cow winners, having a beer together last October; it is hard to imagine that he is gone.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists are a diverse group of charming characters; they are the heart of the French cartooning community. There are not a lot of editorial cartoonists. We get to know each other; the murders are a blow that strikes close to all of us.

The Charlie Hebdo artists were energized and incensed by the Danish Muhammad cartoon fracas a few years ago. French cartoonists have a macho attitude, seeing themselves on the front lines of a free speech debate. One Charlie Hebdo issue, touted as “edited by the Profit Muhammad” had all blank pages. One Charlie Hebdo cover featured a drawing, by French cartoonist “Luz” of the magazine’s publisher/cartoonist “Charb” having a sloppy kiss with a Muslim Man, under the headline “L’Amour plus for que la haine” or “love is stronger than hate.” Charb was among those killed in the terror attack.

Terrorists have no sense of humor. Cartoons loom large in the Arab world, typically on the front pages of Arab language newspapers. It is no wonder that our cartoons seem to bother the terrorists more than our words. Sitting behind a beer with Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, the talk often turns to Islamic extremeists and their assaults on press freedoms. No one can doubt that editorial cartoonists are leading the fight for press freedoms now.

Today we are are grieving, but as we move forward, I hope that our cartoons won’t be chilled by these murders and that the cartooning community will step up to this challenge with even more brilliant and insightful work — I’m sure the French cartoonists will do that; they are my heroes.

Daryl Cagle is an editorial cartoonist who runs the CagleCartoons.com newspaper syndicate distributing editorial cartoons to more than 850 newspapers around the world including the paper you are reading now; he is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society. Comments to Daryl may be sent to editor@cagle.com. Read Daryl’s blog at www.darylcagle.com.

Regis Jesuit tight end Conor Shea (46) and offensive lineman Tim Lynott (56) each made the All-Continental League North first team. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)
Regis Jesuit offensive guard Tim Lynott (56) is one of two Colorado prep football players selected to play for the West team in the fourth annual Semper Fi All-American Game on Jan. 4 in Carson, California. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

Regis Jesuit star offensive guard Tim Lynott will strap on his pads one more time at the high school level before heading off to play college football next year.

The University of Colorado commitment is one of the players from the western portion of the country selected to the fourth annual Semper Fi All-American Bowl, scheduled to be played on Jan. 4 at The StubHub Center in Carson, California. The game will be aired live on Fox Sports 1 between 7-10 p.m. MT.

Lynott is Aurora’s lone representative and one of two Colorado players in all selected, joining Valor Christian defensive back Eric Lee, picked at the “culmination of a nationwide All-American player selection tour that collectively celebrates academic excellence, proven physical fitness and quality of character; values that parallel those of the Marine Corps” according to a press release from the Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Lynott was a first team All-Colorado, All-Continental League North and All-City selection following a season in which he helped Regis Jesuit win a league championship and finish 10-2 overall after a Class 5A playoff loss to eventual state champion Cherry Creek.

After the playoff loss, Lynott said he would be lifting weights with Regis Jesuit defensive line coach and former Denver Bronco Harald Hasselbach to get ready to play in college.

The Semper Fi All-American West team is made up of the Colorado players, plus Arkansas, Arizona, California, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington, while the East team is made up of players from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington D.C.

Lynott was also nominated for the 2015 U.S Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 3 along with Lee and Pine Creek’s Avery Anderson, but none of the Colorado players were selected.

— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes

I was a taught a critical lesson about people this weekend.

I barfed up my usual snark on Friday about Nebraska and Okla. suing Colorado over its legalized pot. I took shots at the usual political whack jobs in those states. While the response from extremist haters was predictable, what I didn’t expect was the outpouring of comments and support from a whole world of people there ashamed by the nonsense elected officials impose on just regular folks, who silently suffer.

Never paint people with a broad brush. Despite the certifiable crap the goes on in NE and OK, there’s a world of eloquent and righteous people hoping for something better. So when Colorado’s own flavor of nutcases make ugly waves, and you know it’s coming, read from the Okie below to find out best to handle it.

Mandi from Tulsa summed it up best:

“I, too, am an Oklahoman. I laughed at everything you said about my state, because if I didn’t laugh I would cry. It’s all true! When I saw that our attorney general, the one who argued that state’s rights should prevail and Oklahoma should be allowed to keep its ban on gay marriage, sharia law, and every other unconstitutional law that’s been approved by my ignorant fellow Okies, was suing Colorado to basically nullify an actual state’s rights issue I was appalled. Was I surprised? Not even a little bit. I find myself apologizing a lot for my state. I have had a lot of people ask me why I stay if I am so disgusted by my elected officials, I’ve even had plenty of my supposed friends tell me to leave if I don’t like it. I will not leave the only home I’ve ever known because of ignorance, I will stay and fight for what I believe is right. One day the stagnant ideas of a not so great past will be gone, and the voices of those that think like I do, that believe in equality, tolerance, and compassion will be heard. Until then, we’ll do what we can to change the hearts and minds of those that are open minded enough to listen.”

If you liked that, read more of the comments that will lighten your heart

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Oh yes, please, Oklahoma and Nebraska, let’s play that game.

Attorneys general from those two bastions of grace and erudition announced Thursday they will sue the hell out of Colorado because voters here legalized pot, and residents in their states just can’t seem to get enough of it. They say, after doing research — please, hold your laughs a little longer — that all the life-sentences for the thousands of motorists caught driving Colorado’s premium weed into the state is breaking their government banks and turning their little corners of heaven into lands of sad dopers.

OK, now you can yuck it up.

So the lawyers that represent those states took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of making us stop.

Now I kind of like the idea of suing other states to make them stop doing stuff that costs Colorado cash and consternation. And what better places to file counter-suits against than these two bulwarks of despair, states No. 37 and No. 46?

Let’s start with Nebraska, the thriving meth capital of the USA. This is a state that has so many trailers exploding from crappy meth labs gone bad that they pretty much welcome it because they don’t have to drag them to the state’s growing environmental nightmare landfills anymore. Think I’m making this up? Have you not heard the joke about knowing for certain the toothbrush was invented in Lincoln, Nebraska, because if it was invented anywhere else, it would be called a “teethbrush?”

And since when did anyone in Nebraska think there wasn’t an incredible crop of weed growing there long before Colorado voters went to the polls to end prohibition here? They only grow all that corn there so they can mask the rows of ditchweed raised all over the state. Marijuana actually grows wild in some parts of Nebraska because it’s been so over-planted. It’s not our fault they grow crap for pot and much prefer the strains cultivated in swank pot shops here in Denver.

This is a state that makes Runzas, and makes you eat them. If you have to ask, don’t. This is the home of Carhenge and rampant teenage drinking. This is a state that makes Wyoming look progressive. And Colorado is the place they come to clog the roads and get well again.

And if any or all of that isn’t bad enough, one word makes it clear that Nebraska needs to keep quiet and find something else to do to pass the time: Cornhuskers. ‘Nuff said.

And Nebraska’s partner in criminently for this lawsuit? Oklahoma is a state that just can’t hide its crazy. In fact, it doesn’t even try.

Talk about the cost of their doing monkey business in the world, Colorado residents and all others have long paid a high price for keeping the endless parade of elected Oklahoma nutcases traipsing back and forth to Washington D.C.

Where to start? Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, the man who swears to God that climate change is the devil’s work and meant to drive all 15 wealthy Oklahoma businessmen back into the middle class.

The only place that regularly tops Nebraska as one of the worst states in the country to live, is Oklahoma. It’s a great place to escape from — not just because of red ants that hunt you in bed, or brown recluse spiders that are hardly reclusive, or the scorpions, or the rattle snakes, or the endless chemical toxins or the relentless dust caused by farming and unpaved roads or the crumbling bridges, or the rampant obesity or the skyrocketing teen birth rate or the constant smell of cigarette smoke or the horrifying heart attack rate or rampant racism. No, the real reason Oklahoma scares the hell out of me is because it sits on Colorado’s southern border and because of the bat-shit crazy politicians that hail from there. This is like the who’s who of people that would prompt you to walk home from Oklahoma rather than hitch a ride with.

Fighting for title of worst of the worst is state Rep. Sally Kern, the queen of snide and hate. She’s the lady who made Oklahoma famous when she said black people don’t work as hard as white people. She’s the one who said that homosexuality is a much bigger threat to America than terrorist attacks. “Homosexuality is not a civil right, it’s a human wrong,” she says to anything that will stand still or appear to listen, adding that gays are “lying” about being born gay.

For this woman, and so many others in Oklahoma, it’s all about putting the “Christ” back in “Christmas” instead of putting it back into “Christianity.”

This is the state that legislates human female eggs are people with rights, and even male sperm. Ack. This is a state that invites nut-case religious types to their state capitol to tell receptive folks that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was a warning from God and that schools ought to teach the story of Adam and Eve instead of insisting that Oklahoma children were “advanced mutations of a baboon.”

And then there’s the infamous state Sen. Ralph Shortey, who sponsored a 2012 bill making it illegal to use aborted human fetuses in food products.

And the perennially jaded Gov. Mary Fallin, who would much rather see fellow Okies cheat on their husbands and mess around with state troopers, as long as they’re not gay husbands. This is a woman who not only preaches the Good Book, but can check off sins like some kind of bucket list.

More recently, Scott Esk, who was for running for a state house seat, insisted on his Facebook that the state has every right to stone homosexuals to death.

My personal favorite Oklahoma political whack, however, is Timothy Ray Murray who told everyone that his opponent, state Rep. Frank Lucas, was executed a few years ago and the man purporting to be Lucas was actually a lookalike. The guy got better than 5 percent of the vote in a Republican primary, and according to the Huffington Post, was angry because he couldn’t find a court to help him get Lucas’ DNA tested to clear up the matter.

The problem for us is that their nut cases incite our nut cases. Oh, yes, let’s just see whose internal state issues are costing folks more in worry and cash outside state borders. All this is aside from the fact that Colorado has been taking in refugees from both of these states for generations.

But if these two states insist on pursuing this, and obviously they have nothing better to do, than I say we offer them this deal. For every pot purchase made by someone with a Nebraska or Oklahoma driver’s license, we’ll add a $10 Sucks-To-Be-From-There surcharge. We keep half. They get half. We all get rich, and maybe decision makers in those great states will try a little premium bud themselves. The only other real option would be secession and creating their own country. I’m OK with that, too.

READERS: I rarely write post-scripts. Reader responses to this column called for it. I applaud those who live in places that are wrongly judged by hair-brained leaders who think they speak for everyone. Clearly, worrisome electeds in Nebraska and Oklahoma don’t speak for those who think before they act, and in many cases, simply think. READ HERE.

Dave Perry is editor of the Aurora Sentinel

A Pakistani girl, who was injured in a Taliban attack in a school, is rushed to a hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing and wounding scores, officials said, in the highest-profile militant attack to hit the troubled region in months.(AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

While the western world frets over the falling price of oil and what to buy people for Christmas who already have everything, the cancerous Taliban we know so little about came unleashed in northwest Pakistan today and slaughtered 126 school children, severely wounding another 200.

“Today is a black day,” said Salman Yousafzai. His name probably doesn’t sound familiar. You know him, though. He’s a Peshawar journalist who spent about a month here in Aurora earlier this fall as part of a American-Pakistan journalist exchange program. Aurora Sentinel journalist Quincy Snowdon leaves for Pakistan at the end of January.

You know Salman because he is like so many in Pakistan that make the news here only when insanity boils over in the Middle East. He has a job, a family, a penchant for lame jokes, a great love for home-cooking, and more than anything, he’s driven to free his home from the relentless grip of terrorism and corruption that makes life not just difficult, but deadly. Like millions of others there, life in Pakistan for Salman is about fighting the good fight.

But not today. Today is about reeling from horror. Today is about rethinking a world that could produce this kind of cold, aching carnage. Today is about 300 children in Peshawar, the northwest Pakistan city that has been plagued by murderous criminals for years now.

When Salman was here, he told us gripping, horrifying stories of rampant kidnappings and blackmailing in his home town. His job is to cover the daily murders and hijackings that are a part of life in a city desperate for help to make the madness stop. Not only do denizens fight against sadists like the Taliban and other criminals burrowed into surrounding hills that push against even greater madness in Afghanistan, but they must fight the often corrupt police and military that’s supposed to protect them.

Salman said it’s common for police or military at checkpoints meant to keep terrorists out of the city to take bribes to let them in whenever they want. Each day, innocent people are threatened with kidnappings or worse, it’s a daily life of extortion for God only knows why.

But this. This is unlike anything Salman and Peshawar’s terrorized residents have ever seen. It’s unlike anything almost anyone has ever seen.

How could anyone — even Taliban, who have a deep-seated greed for unspeakable and irrational terror — agree among themselves to plot and carry out such a callous and monstrous plan against a school full of children?

For years, the leaders of Peshawar have begged the national government for credible, effective forces to prevent just such an atrocity from taking place. Today, after more than 300 children were gunned down dead or badly wounded, the prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, “rushed” to the town to show his support, news sources there report. If he actually supported the beaten victims of Peshawar, if any of us actually supported the people there, such a feat of madness couldn’t have happened.

But while the cameras focus on Sharif and the seemingly endless bloody bodies and wounded children, Taliban relished the carnage as some sort of victory. They murdered children who were considered “lucky” in Peshawar. The children were fortunate because they could afford to go to a school that actually had a school to go to. There were books and real teachers. There was a hired security to keep them safe from madness like this. Less “lucky” are the tens of thousands of Peshawar children who go to “school” in the streets, where a teacher might have one book to hold in front of an entire class for instruction. These children are ripe for random acts of terror.

But not today. Today, they went home unharmed. Their parents will probably keep them from school for weeks, maybe even months. Would you send your child to school after such a heinous act?

And in that way, the Taliban wins. With the blood of more than 300 children, they’ll keep tens of thousands of children from learning to read, to name the planets, to discover that there’s a world beyond Peshawar that worries about its weight and Christmas lists, rather then worrying about being kidnapped or killed.

But not today. Today, the world will ache for Peshawar, and some will even talk big about helping the area clean out terrorist vermin. But the price of oil will slide or spike, we’ll be upended by finding out that coffee or diet soda is killing us, and Peshawar will be left to itself to fight against an army of evil we can only read about. And dozens of children will die. Just like today.

READ THE AP STORY ABOUT THE ATTACK HERE

Aurora high school students rally together outside the Aurora courthouse after walking out of their schools Dec. 5 in protest. Around 400 students from Gateway, Overland, Rangeview, Hinkley and Aurora Central high schools walked out at 10 am on Friday and marched to the Aurora Municipal Center to join a nationwide protest in response to New York and Missouri grand juries returning no indictments against police officers.  (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Middle school students from Aurora’s Vista Peak  hit the streets in protest Wednesday over national police killings of minorities. I was hugely impressed that the kids walked about 10 miles to get there, taking about three hours.

On Friday, hundreds of high school protesters hit the streets while Aurora cops watched over them from being injured in traffic.

Pretty cool to hear the scanner chatter among the Aurora cops making sure the kids are safe as they walk along Colfax, chanting and relishing a protest on a warm, sunny day. Unlike growing cesspools in the US, Aurora is an amazing place.

The cops were watching the kids like hawks, making sure they don’t get messed with by passers by or get hurt in traffic and even subtly guiding them along their protest route so folks can see them in action without putting the kids in jeopardy. “We have more cops than we have protesters at this point,” one cop said.

It’s a good day.

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If you’re just flummoxed by all these protests over black people dying “justifiably” at the hands of white police, think about how different you might feel if the cops in the three most recent incidents were black, and the people shot or choked to death were white. Do you honestly think grand juries would have refused to indict in all three events?

Go further. What if Michael Brown had been in his car and a cop is standing in the street, not looking to be doing much of anything except blocking traffic. Brown rolls down the window and asks why he doesn’t get out of the street. The cop comes rushing up, angry. He starts to reach inside the car for a gun that Brown legally caries on his belt. Afraid he’s going to be killed right there, he shoots the cop in self defense. Indictment? You better believe it. What if in New York four black men see a cop taking money from a pimp, and the record the crime. The cop sees the men recording the illegal exchange, and he starts going postal, reaching for his gun. One black guy calls 9-1-1 for help, and the other three hold the enraged cop down, one using a choke hold. The white cop gasps for air, “I can’t breathe,” he manages to get out as three black men hold him down while the cop is reaching for his gun. He has a heart attack and dies before anyone can come to help. Indictment? Are you serious?

And what if a black cop pulls up to a middle school parking lot because neighbors say a white boy has some kind of gun. The boy reaches to hand it to the cop, the cop panics and shoots the boy dead. If this was in Denver, what do you think would happen? All kinds of court cases. And if this was in Selma or Charleston? There would be no indictment. There would be a lynching.

These protests aren’t about these particular deaths, they’re about how differently white people and black people are treated by lots of cops, all over the country. A response I keep hearing is that if you don’t illegally sell a cigarette for 75 cents, or don’t shoplift, or don’t give a cop lip, or carry a realistic toy gun outside, you have nothing to worry about. The logic there is, it’s OK for cops to kill people who shoplift, give them lip, carry toy guns or sell cigarettes on the sidewalk. Those, apparently, are crimes that Americans deserve to die for. At least black Americans.

A black attorney who was in the thick of the aftermath of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles recently said that after interviewing more than 900 white cops in the area, she was repeatedly told by white police officers that were afraid of black men, and it bothered them all the time. And in interviewing community members, black youth and men said they feared white police.

Is there anyone surprised that a spate of grand juries clearing white cops of killing black people for any reason prompts protests and even riots? Not about race? Yeah, right.

Keep protesting. Stop rioting and becoming criminals along the way. But peacefully and legally protest. Nothing else has stopped the unfair and disparate treatment of blacks in this country, whether they’re on a playground or living in the White House. Protest.

COLE: Beer of the Week, Dec. 5

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Ladies and gentlemen, I propose that a good amber ale is harder to find than the Easter bunny winning the Powerball and being struck by lightning at the same time. By their definition, amber ales have a tough hill to climb. The amber color naturally comes from highly caramelized malts, which creates more sugar in the wort and a beer with less character than Bill Murray nowadays. (He’s playing himself in every movie now, people.)

If you’re having a hard time following, consider this: the most popular amber in Colorado (probably) is Fat Tire. Fat Tire is the chicken of beer because it really tastes like everything, and I’m fully blitzed on Fat Tire. (Sorry New Belgium, I like a lot of your stuff, just not Fat Tire anymore.)

So we come to O’Dell’s Isolation Ale because we’re told that it’s a seasonal ale, and we should drink seasonal beer sourced from seasonal elves because this makes sense somehow. In all reality, Isolation Ale is less of a seasonal and more of a better, bitter amber.

The rich color and low carbonation make Isolation incredibly pleasing, and wonderfully surprising. No, it won’t blitz your buds. Yes, it is bitter for an amber, and it’s even hoppy.

WHAT: O’Dell Brewing Co.’s Isolation Ale.

WHERE: Pretty much anywhere should have it by now. If you don’t see it, seriously reconsider your choice of bottle shops.

WHY: It’s better than just another amber ale. In fact, it’s just balanced enough between rich malt and sharp hops that it should qualify as just a good ale.

WHAT IT REMINDS ME OF: George Killian’s Irish Red — just kidding. Laguinitas Brewing (Calif.) is a master of ales and Isolation approaches one of the best: Censored. And that’s high praise, indeed.

Former Eaglecrest High School standouts Ruth Okoye, center, and Taylor Loyd, right, are contributors to a University of Denver volleyball team that has qualified for the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament for the first time in program history. Five former players from Aurora prep programs play for the Pioneers, while former Grandview standout Katelin Batten is an assistant coach. (File photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

For fans of Aurora prep volleyball, the opening rounds of the 2014 Division I Women’s Volleyball Tournament will be a treat.

The courts at Colorado State University will be packed with former city prep stars on Friday and Saturday, when the Rams play host the University of Denver at 6:30 p.m. with the winner set to face either Colorado or Northern Colorado at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6.

Denver has been steadily collecting some of Aurora’s best players over the past few seasons and it is paying off, as the Pios went 27-6, won the Summit League Championship and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time.

A whopping five members of Denver’s 14-player roster played in Aurora high school programs, with three from Eaglecrest — setter Bailey Karst, middle blocker Ruth Okoye and defensive specialist/libero Taylor Loyd — plus middle blocker Sarah Schmid, a former Regis Jesuit standout, and ex-Grandview star Erica Denney.

Both seniors — Karst (Ohio) and Denney (Penn State), who was part of Grandview’s undefeated 2007 Class 5A state championship team — arrived at Denver via transfer, while junior Schmid, sophomore Okoye and freshman Loyd signed with the Pioneers out of high school.

All five Aurora players have appeared in at least 51 sets for Denver, with Schmid having played 117 of the team’s 119 sets on the season, while Karst has logged 116, Okoye 115 and Denney 100. Karst averages a team-best 10.92 assists per set, while Okoye (265) is just ahead of Schmid (248) for third place on the team in total kills for the season.

The former Aurora players on the Denver roster have thrown a season-long block party, as the 6-foot-5 Denney (99), 6-1 Schmid (98) and 6-1 Okoye (92) are all just short of 100 for the season. Loyd, who played outside hitter in high school by necessity, has appeared in 51 matches.

Even the Denver coaching staff has Aurora ties, with former Grandview star libero Katelin Batten — who coincidentally played at Colorado State and graduated in 2010 — serves as one of two assistant coaches to head coach Jesse Mahoney. Batten was part of the Wolves’ back-to-back 5A state championship teams in 2004 and 2005.

On the Colorado State roster is former Grandview standout setter Grace Gordon, who played two seasons at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (2012-2013) following her high school career, during which she made the Aurora Sentinel’s All-City Volleyball Team three times. The 5-foot-7 Gordon has yet to appear in a match this season for the Rams, who are 29-2.

Neither Northern Colorado or Colorado has Aurora players on the roster.

Former Regis Jesuit standout middle blocker Janae Hall is also playing in the NCAA tournament, as her University of Kansas team plays the University of Arkansas-Little Rock in the opening round, while ex-Cherokee Trail star libero Branen Berta will suit up for Iowa State to play Western Kentucky Dec. 5.

— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes

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