When the sad news came last week, most of Colorado Springs didn’t know how to react. There was one sports story in the daily paper as literally hundreds of messages, instant eulogies and tributes crisscrossed the cyber world.
Mike Moran, 78, former longtime head of communications and media relations for the U.S. Olympic Committee (1978-2003), passed away at Penrose Hospital on July 7 of unexpected complications from pneumonia.
For more than a decade to the end of his life, Moran had continued to flourish as senior media consultant for the Colorado Springs Sports Corp. He added his expertise and instincts to many of the city’s annual events, from the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and Rocky Mountain State Games to the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame plus countless other competitions, luncheons and celebrations.
Across the sports world, Moran’s respected stature and spotless credibility resulted from his quarter-century as the American Olympic movement’s most prominent spokesman, media liaison and guiding force in nurturing the nation’s awareness. His enduring, positive working relationships spanned every level of local, national and global media. He was equally as effective dealing with the national networks, major-metro newspapers or local writers and TV stations.
His influence spanned a generation of Olympic history and athletes, from the Lake Placid Miracle on Ice of 1980 to Los Angeles in 1984, Atlanta in 1996, the Salt Lake City Winter Games of 2002 — and so much more in-between.
Yet, as remarkable as Moran’s professional life was, including 11 years (1968-78) as sports information director at the University of Colorado before joining the USOC, all those experiences and stories aren’t the reason for this tribute.
You need to know more about the real Mike Moran, whose value to this city and region over the past four-plus decades cannot be overstated. That comes not as a simple accolade, but from firsthand knowledge in my role as a veteran local media presence across the same span.
Nobody — and this is an inarguable fact — has done more at a personal level to promote, praise, publicize and enhance the reputation of Colorado Springs.
Let that sink in. Nobody. Not even close.
His move to the Springs, in the summer of 1978, coincided with two momentous occasions: the USOC (now U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee) moving its Olympic House headquarters from New York to the Olympic Training Center here, and the debut of the National Sports Festival (later U.S. Olympic Festival, an Olympic-style gathering of sports and top athletes that continued through 1995.
Immediately, Moran made it his mission to attract national media here to learn and share all the stories, events and personalities, transforming the Olympic beat into a constant newsmaker instead of just an every-four-years fling. And a constant ingredient in his pitch was Colorado Springs, which he helped push as the self-proclaimed Amateur Sports Capital of America — long before “Olympic City USA” became a thing, a title also championed by Moran.
He could have focused entirely on the mega-media, but he took equal pride in helping the city’s daily newspaper become a key player on the Olympic media scene. He made sure The Gazette had credentials and access around the world. I was one of the early beneficiaries, always having a good workspace and seat for opening and closing ceremonies as well as the biggest-demand sports, such as the Dream Team of 1992 and track and field, swimming, figure skating and more at every Olympiad. It became the same for everyone else working for The Gazette through the years.
But for Moran, it wasn’t just about the Olympics. The two of us were proud of having led a determined crusade in the 1980s to bring minor-league baseball to Colorado Springs, reaching fruition with the Sky Sox for what became a 30-year run. Later, still riding high with the Olympics in the 1990s, he aided the campaign to build the new Broadmoor World Arena, then the cultivation of our city’s Sports Hall of Fame, serving as perennial emcee for the induction banquet from its start in 2000 to his finale (though nobody realized it) last October.
Nobody was ever more comfortable with a microphone, yet Moran also was a great fan and sports purist who loved having a seat in the stands. Just one example: When the Colorado Rockies were born in 1993, playing their inaugural game in New York against the Mets, he wrangled two upper-level tickets at Shea Stadium, looking down on home plate. My press seat went empty as the two of us shared a day to remember, one of many such occasions in our friendship that spanned 43 years.
Along the way, he became an avid follower of Colorado College hockey and the Air Force Academy (he loved college sports, not so much the Broncos), attending many games with friends such as former local sports executive Fred Whitacre. Moran also relished generating fresh local interest in those programs with his annual Sports Corp. preseason luncheons for college football and hockey.
Ever the voracious reader, he began every day devouring newspapers from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Denver Post to the Colorado Springs Business Journal, Indy and Gazette. All of them have lost a faithful subscriber. And he sent countless emails daily to friends here and afar, sharing informative stories and opinions that always were relevant, both sports and politics.
We could go on, but hopefully this begins to convey more of what Mike Moran actually meant to Colorado Springs. Yet, it was never about wanting credit, praise or honor for those efforts. It was just Mike doing what he did best.
He never called himself this city’s supreme sports ambassador, but that’s what he was. For him, underneath those amazing Olympic experiences and influences, what also mattered was convincing everyone in his world to appreciate Colorado Springs as much as he did.
Nobody else can fill that void now, which is what historians say only when someone really was one of a kind.
Rest in peace, good friend. Yours, truly, was a life fully lived.