Sports that were a lifeline as his escape from physical abuse as a child are now too painful for longtime Denver sportscaster Todd Romero to watch.
“Sports saved my life as a kid. I had an abusive, alcoholic stepfather. From ages five through 15, I got beaten by him three or four times a week,” Romero told me, with tears turning his eyes into puddles as we sat in a local coffee shop. “What saved me was getting out of the house to play baseball, basketball and football. Those coaches mentored me, fed me and made me feel somebody cared.”
Born in Denver, raised in Fort Collins and educated at the University of Denver, where he graduated in 1986, Romero has been the strongest, most consistent and recognizable Hispanic voice in the Colorado sports community for the better part of a generation.
When the Broncos upset Green Bay at Super Bowl XXXII, he was the first TV journalist to conduct live interviews in the winning locker room, as receiver Rod Smith and team owner Pat Bowlen celebrated the first championship in franchise history. In 2012, Romero joined Altitude Sports & Entertainment to cover the Nuggets, which he had learned to love before learning his multiplication tables way back in the 1960s, when Lonnie Wright dribbled a red, white and blue ball for a team that played in the Denver Auditorium Arena.
“It has been a heck of a run,” Romero said. “Thirty-six years in this crazy business.”
On Oct. 23, however, Romero’s run came to a halt when Altitude terminated his employment after a contentious six years during which he fought Altitude over salary and saw his airtime slowly reduced, while also battling addiction to prescription medication for chronic neck pain that wrecked his sleep.
Romero initiated a lawsuit against Altitude in 2021, with allegations of discrimination on the basis of race, age and his decision to enter rehab that await a trial scheduled to begin in March.
Altitude contends Romero’s dismissal was a work-force reduction for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons, including the economic impact of an ongoing dispute with Comcast that has frustrated fans of the Avalanche and Nuggets. In a filing with the court seeking a summary judgment, Altitude argued Romero “envisions his role on the broadcast team to be akin to that of two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, when he is in fact a role player.”
During his final months at Altitude, the acrimony not only made it uncomfortable for Romero to be in the studio, but ripped at his heartstrings until it hurt too badly to follow the teams that inspired him to become a broadcaster.
“I missed the Nuggets’ whole ride to their first championship because it was too difficult for me to sit down in front of the television and watch,” Romero said. “I put on the Hallmark Channel and watched movies instead of watching Jokic sweep the Lakers, then win the championship against Miami in a sport that has been a big part of my professional life.”
For a Hispanic kid who grew up in Broncos Country, still bleeds orange and admits every interception by quarterback Russell Wilson is a temptation to gouge his eyes, carrying a microphone is more than a job. It has been Romero’s life. He’s a fan like you. Outside of his family, nothing can fill him with that goosebump-raising energy like every voice in Ball Arena serenading Nathan MacKinnon and the Avs with “All the Small Things” on the way to a victory in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I’ve lost my identity,” admitted Romero, three months shy of his 60th birthday. “After 36 years of working in television, I’m kind of lost on what to do with myself and which direction to turn next, especially because sports has been such a big part of who I am. And then — poof! — it’s gone.”
The den of his Parker home is decorated with John Elway memorabilia and his brain is stacked with encyclopedic knowledge of Colorado sports heroes, both rich and not so famous, from Colorado State football legend Sonny Lubick to mixed martial arts fighter Dustin Jacoby.
What gnaws at Romero’s self-worth is the same cruel trick played on Boomer computer techies, sales reps and accountants across the corporate landscape. Hard-working, distinguished workers who proudly wear gray at their temples as a badge of experience too often get shown the door instead of celebrated.
It stinks to be told you’re too old to make a difference when you wake up every morning certain the person in the mirror is way too young to retire.
Instead of heading off in search of a beach chair in the Caribbean, Romero refuses to go quietly, battling Altitude on principle and hustling for a way to stay in the game, because there’s inspiration every time he walks by a job site and spots laborers hauling shingles to the roof. In a Denver community whose population is approximately 30% Hispanic, where are the voices to represent them on local sports television?
“I look at those roofers or laborers in the hotel industry, and it seems like they’re mostly Hispanic. It’s almost like we don’t count, but Hispanics are now the largest minority in the United States, with little representation in high-end jobs,” Romero said.
“I think it’s time someone stands up and says something about the lack of Hispanic sportscasters in Colorado. Being a voice for the next Hispanic kid that dreams of being a sportscaster means a lot to me.”
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