I Want My Spine, I Want My Orange Crush
In my 8th grade year, 1977, I began the decades long process of suffering through four Super Bowl losses with my beloved Denver Broncos football team. As an adolescent watching the Broncos loose to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XII, I was devastated. That first Super Bowl loss led me to some of my earliest experiences with rage and real depression. Within a few days though, I was over it and was soon back to my life of being a smart ass kid and a poor student.
As a young adult I didn’t handle Denver’s Super Bowl and playoff losses nearly as well. Subsequent to each of the next three Super Bowl losses, and the multiple playoff losses through the 1980s and 1990s, there were always weeks of anger, rage, depression, and an accompanying persona of profound grumpitude. My friends and family didn’t like me much after those losses. Bronco football was more than entertainment or a distraction for me. My blood is orange and blue. When it came to wining the biggest game though, the Super Bowl, the Broncos treated me like a bed-wetting puppy and beat the love right out of me.
Elway Or The Highway
Twenty years after my first taste of a sports fan’s blues, the tide finally turned. In what we can all acknowledge as professional football’s finest hour, the Denver Broncos beat the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. When John Elway lowered his shoulder into the Green Bay secondary late in the 4th quarter, it became clear that a team of destiny had just arrived. After that play, my wife had to stop my brother and me from going outside, starting fires, and tipping over cars – we were that excited.
Two days after Denver’s first Super Bowl victory, I had the pleasure of telling my 7-year old daughter there would be no school that day. Rather, we would spend the day on the streets of downtown Denver, celebrating the first Bronco Super Bowl victory with 500,000 of our closest friends – and we did. Not even Pope John Paul II attracted that many spectators for World Youth Day in Denver 5 years earlier. The Broncos victory parade outdrew the Pope! Yes, we are that religious about the Broncos in Denver.
A year later, Denver won the Super Bowl again and another parade was had. Soon after, John Elway would retire, there would be several significant player and coaching changes and Denver, a perennial playoff team, would settle into a decade’s worth of football mediocrity.
Nothing To Do With Tebow
Two weeks ago the Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in competitive yet convincing style, to advance in the AFC playoffs. It was the most exciting, and most important game Denver had played in 14 years. I wept after the game’s sudden-death overtime conclusion. I wept, not because the Broncos had won. Not because Tim Tebow had played the best game of his young career. I wept because I immediately envisioned my brother, now with school age children of his own, perhaps taking them to yet another Bronco Super Bowl parade. I wanted for his family, the joy I had shared with mine years earlier.
This past Saturday evening the Broncos were easily dismantled by the New England Patriots. I could see the game was over within the first 5 minutes. As the game continued it got exponentially worse. “Exponentially worse”, to quote Lewis Black, means to get “crappier and crappier and crappier”. As the impending loss grew more evident, I got better and better with it. There was a bit of sadness to be sure, but unlike the playoff and Super Bowl losses of my young adult life which depressed me and affected me to the point of outright temper tantrums, I was good with this loss immediately.
Why The Change In Attitude…?
Was I less of a fan now? Was I better at managing stress? Did I simply have too many other things going on in my life to be upset by bad football anymore? The answer to each of these is a partial yes. But I am still a Denver Bronco fan. I have worn my Broncos hoody almost every day this season. I love my team. The reasons I got good with the Bronco loss so quickly are thus; age and perspective. Age has provided me time to develop perspective.
Much has happened since Denver won Super Bowl XXXII. The illnesses and unexpected deaths of several good friends have happened. 9/11 happened. A couple of unnecessary wars happened. Terror attacks all over the world happened. Partisan politics has increased. The combat death of soldier and former NFL player, Pat Tillman happened. That one is worth repeating; the combat death of soldier and former NFL player, Pat Tillman happened.
In short, I was quick to remember that football is only a game. It’s only a game. I have heard that tired cliché so many times in my life as a sports fan, but I have never truly felt it until this week. As the defeated Broncos walked off the field in Foxborough, MA last Saturday evening, I was able to feel that it’s only a game. As I let the sadness fall away, and as I continued to watch the players walk off the field, I thought of my father, also a Bronco fan.
Though my father had planned to watch the Broncos play the Patriots, he could not. A few days earlier, he suffered a heart attack and was in the ICU of a Las Vegas hospital. He is also battling pneumonia and weak kidneys. It’s only a game. Though his condition is improving, I am grateful my father was unable to watch the Broncos lose. Also a Bronco fan, I’m not sure his heart would not have survived this loss. It’s only a game Dad, it’s only a game. Be well. rc
Please check back in two weeks to see what comes out when I hit the “stop” button on the blender of my head. Oh, and there is this from Little Feat, enjoy…