By Bob Hiller –
Warning: This is an entirely self-indulgent blog filled entirely with my memories of the Denver Broncos. Per usual, you will find nothing theologically profound. But, this week, I’m not even trying. Instead, today you will read a fanboy at his pathetic worst, anxiously awaiting Sunday’s kickoff. P.S. Just remember, if you’d sent me money to go the game, you wouldn’t have to suffer through this blog…Go Broncos!
There are those moments of significance in life in which we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing. Very often, this takes place with traumatic experiences: where were you when JFK was shot? When the Challenger exploded? On 9/11? Or, we remember where we were and how we celebrated the joyous occasions in life: graduations, confirmations, weddings, the birth of a child. For me, I remember where I was for every Denver Broncos Super Bowl, both the traumatic and the joyful.
Listen, I know putting events in the history of a mere sports team on par with the most traumatic events in the history of our nation, or the most joyful events in a person’s life, is a bit hyperbolic. I’ll grant that it is…it is only a bit hyperbolic. But, look, when you grow up in Colorado, you grow up as a person who bleeds orange and blue who lives among a people who bleed orange and blue. The collective life of the state is impacted by the performance of that team. When they win, the state celebrates together! When they lose, we join in a collective lament. Do we place too much importance on a mere football team? Of course we do! In fact, I bet if you asked them, most Denverites could tell you where they were when the Broncos brought our state joy and when the brought us pain.
I’ll tell you where I was. I remember leaning on the couch at the house of my friends, Josh and Andy, on January 11, 1987. Its where I watched “The Drive.” That fateful Sunday, John Elway, with just over five minutes to play, led the Broncos 98 yards to tie the Cleveland Browns in one of most dramatic drives in the history of the NFL. I remember jumping off their floor in elation when the Rich Karlis kicked the field goal to win the AFC Championship and send the Broncos to their second Super Bowl. I remember sitting in the exact same spot, with the exact same reaction, when the Broncos did the same thing to the Browns a year later. It was pure joy.
However, I remember the frustration, too. After all, the Broncos have been a part of some of the most lopsided losses in Super Bowl history. There was real pain in watching them lose the Super Bowl XXI to the Phil Simms’s led Giants (does that guy really have to call the game Sunday?). But, that pain was nothing compared to the next year when, in Super Bowl XXII, the Broncos went up 10-0 on the Washington Redskins only to give up the next 42 points unanswered…to Mark freaking Rypien’s team. I remember where I was in my uncle’s house and which pillow I was punching. I remember the horror two years later when Joe Montana carved up the Broncos defense in Super Bowl XXIV in one of the biggest blowouts in Super Bowl history (55-10). I’d forgotten the feeling that game gave my guts…until two seasons ago when the Seattle Seahawks made Peyton Manning, one of the greatest to ever play the game, look like a high school backup. I remember pouting on my friend’s couch…and which pillow I punched.
But, I also remember the joy the Broncos have brought me and my fellow Denverites. I remember where I was sitting when the 1997 Broncos upset the highly favored Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. Elway’s helicopter leap will forever be ingrained in my psyche. I remember the clock hitting zero and all of my friends flying off the couch in elation, except for my friend Josh (yes, the same Josh from 1987) and I. We jumped and then hit the couch in disbelief with tears (yep…that’s right) in our eyes. I can still hear owner Pat Bowlen yell, “This one’s for John” as he hands the trophy to the Hall of Fame quarterback. I remember the next year when Elway played his final game, smoking the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII. It was my first year of college, and one of my dormmates (a fellow Denverite) almost got us into incredible amounts of trouble for joyfully cussing at the top of his lungs and rattling the windows with “Celebrate” on the radio! It was glorious!
If you are still reading this stroll down my Bronco memory lane, you are a real trooper. But, I wonder: where I’ll find myself this Sunday? What will I remember from Super Bowl 50? Will I have memories of elated joy or bitter frustration? Will Peyton Manning be another Denver QB remembered for riding off into the blue and orange sunset like John Elway, or will his career end with another depressing loss? Will Denver’s defense do to Cam Newton what they did to Brady? (Let’s be honest, if the Broncos start losing too badly, I can always go back and watch them put Brady on his back 23 times!) Will Elway get to take the trophy and yell, “This one’s for Pat” in honor of the famed owner? I hope so.
Finally, do I care about Broncos football a little too much? Of course I do. So do all my Colorado friends! And I hope, for our sake, that this year’s Super Bowl brings us memories of Bronco joy! Let’s hope this one’s for Denver!