How I've changed as a Bronco fan over the years.
I was born in 1974. Three years later the Denver Broncos went to their first Super Bowl. I was 3 years old, and I don't remember, but it's a safe bet I watched the game with my mom and dad. Growing up in Denver, we worshipped the Broncos. I was indoctrinated into the rabid fan base.
I watched my dad yell and scream at the TV and quickly adopted his passion for the local NFL franchise. The loss in Super Bowl XII didn't bother me, but Super Bowl XXI was devastating. The Broncos were up 10-9 at the half and things were looking good. In the second half, the Giants came to life and Phil Simms went on about his business going 22-25, for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Simms was named Super Bowl MVP. Denver lost that game 39-20 and I was devastated.
I sobbed in the bathroom of our friend’s house because I was crushed and embarrassed and my dad was saying all these ugly hateful things about my beloved Broncos. It was 1986 and just three days after Christmas. I was 12 years old and my life revolved around the Denver Broncos. They were my heroes. I really took it personally.
The following season Denver made it back to Super Bowl XXII and once again got off to a hot start. It was 10-0 after the first quarter, then Denver’s defense seemingly fell apart and Doug Williams and the Redskins went off for 35 unanswered points in the second quarter on their way to a 42-10 victory, I was 13 and this was the worst day of my life up until that point. I knew that crying did no good, but to be 13 and learning to deal with major disappointment, it was hard not to.
As a fan I was spoiled. Not even out of my teens and my favorite football team made it to the Super Bowl three times. After being beaten handily in back to back Super Bowls, I was beginning to dread the big game. In 1988 Denver fans were spared the disappointment of another Super loss as they missed the playoffs with an 8-8 season, but by 1989 they were right back in Super Bowl XXIV.
In Super Bowl XXIV the Broncos lost 55-10 and I began to think the they might never bring the Vince Lombardi trophy back to Denver. I endured the bad jokes, the constant reminders of the blowouts on the biggest stage, and constantly being laughed at because my favorite QB in the league just didn’t have what it takes to win championships; it was hard keeping the faith.
When they finally got back to Super Bowl XXXII in 1998, I was 24 years old, and I was skeptical about Denver’s chances. I watched our team lose three Super Bowls, each one of them a soul crushing blowout. I could hardly watch another Super Bowl for fear of the inevitable disappointment I was about to experience. With my hands over my eyes, I watched Terrell Davis set a Super Bowl record with three rushing touchdowns, all while playing through a migraine. John Elway only threw for 158 yards, and the Broncos ended a 13 year NFC victory streak in the Super Bowl. For me, this Super Bowl rates as my all-time favorite and one of the best in the history of the NFL. Denver won that game 31-24 as heavy underdogs to Brett Favre and the defending champion Packers. When the Broncos won that game, my uncle punched me in the ribs so hard I could barely breathe and it seemed like everyone had a tear in their eye for John Elway. It was as if the entire nation were Broncos fans that day.
In 1999 the team returned and dominated the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII. It was almost as if John Elway wanted to dish out some of the pain of those three Super Bowl blowout losses that he endured. Elway won MVP honors in a dominating performance over Dan Reeves’ Falcons, and retired as a back to back Super Bowl winning QB; the perfect end to a hall of fame career. In those days, I was a die-hard fan. I took every loss extremely hard, and celebrated every win as if I was a member of the team. I didn't think of football as inane. I just accepted it as a part of my life and embraced it as if it was more important than anything else.
Today it's 2014; 15 years since Elway walked into the sunset, and the Broncos are back in the Super Bowl. In this 48th edition of the Super Bowl it's fitting that one of the greatest QBs to ever play the game is what it took to get us back to this point. Brian Griese, Jake Plummer, Steve Beurline, Gus Frerotte, Bubby Brister, Kyle Orton, and Tim Tebow all failed to reach the Super Bowl. Plummer got close in 2005 leading the team to the AFC Championship Game, and Tebow won a wild card game in heroic fashion in 2012, but it took a football genius from a family that is considered NFL royalty to have a chance at winning their third title.
I still never miss a game, but this year I finally sacrificed watching every game by getting rid of my television and the cable bill that came with it. This year we only watched the games that were nationally televised and streamed on the Internet. If it wasn't streaming we just listened to it in the radio. I have to admit, these last few years have been odd for me.
As a Broncos fan, it was weird to imagine Peyton Manning in a Broncos uniform, after all, he torched us in the playoffs a couple of times, and watching him do what he does to the Broncos was annoying. I hated Manning when Denver played against him. I dreaded those games. 92 regular season touchdowns later I have grown to appreciate the master of all QBs. In fact if you include the postseason Peyton has thrown for 99 TDs in two years as a Bronco, and sometime during #SB48 he is going to crack the triple digit touchdown barrier. The guy just wins. Without Manning the Broncos don't get there.
This week I take comfort in knowing that as a 40-year-old man I can handle the disappointment of a loss with dignity and the celebration of a win with grace. I will be entertained by the spectacle, but I won't let it ruin my life. When you’re watching the game, no matter who you are rooting for, keep it classy. It's good to be passionate about your team, but remember to keep things in perspective. No matter how much you think you aren’t offending anyone by screaming F-bombs in a bar or restaurant, throwing your television, punching holes in walls, or resorting to fisticuffs, you ARE bothering us.
We are wondering why you are taking a game that has little impact or bearing on your life so seriously. Your intelligence is being questioned. There are more important things than football. It might seem silly to say that, but some people don't understand. A loss by the Seahawks or Broncos might put them over the edge. When the Broncos won their first Super Bowl, I went downtown to celebrate and wound up with a face full of tear gas and a general distaste for people. Win or lose, a silly game should not be rioted over. If the Broncos lose this year I won't shed any tears, and I hope you won’t either. Save your tears and your energy for the people that need them. NFL players aren’t shedding any tears for you; they are riding your passion and love of the sport all the way to the bank.