The Best Fans In Football

Joseph VaccarelliContributor IMay 28, 2009

DENVER - OCTOBER 30:  Denver Broncos fans cheer on their team against the Philadelphia Eagles on October 30, 2005 before Halloween at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado.  The Broncos won 49-21.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Denver is the ultimate sports fan town.

It's so rare to see fans turnout and support a team, even when they're down or haven't been good in a while, but Denver fans will do just that, especially with the Broncos.

And the atmosphere that surrounds a team when they make a deep run in the playoffs is unparalleled, that's what I love about sports in Denver and particularly about the Broncos.

When the Broncos are bad, which is rare, the fans still turn out in droves and cheer the team up and down the field, boo the opponents and jeer the officials.

When the Broncos are good, there is a hysteria in Denver that will not go away. People will talk Broncos all week, it will be on the front page of the newspaper and the lead story on the nightly news. Fans can not get enough of the Broncos when they are on the verge of something great.

Take the 2005 season for example. The Broncos stormed out of the gates, won 13 games and hosted the AFC championship game, all with a mediocre quarterback named Jake Plummer.

Plummer was never a huge fan favorite in Denver, known for his surliness and unkempt beard. But in 2005 you couldn't go around the stadium on game day without seeing hundreds of Jake Plummer beards, either grown or painted on men, women and children.

Denver loves all its sports teams, they finish above average in attendance for all major sports, but the Broncos are the first love of the city.

For a long time, football was all Denver had with the exception of minor-league baseball. Starting in 1960, the Broncos were the first professional sports team in Denver.

The Broncos were terrible for a long time, never going anywhere and constantly being blown out in games, that was until the 1977 season.

In that season, Randy Gradishar, Tom Jackson and Lyle Alzado led the Orange Crush defense to a 12-2 regular-season record and an AFC Championship.

Sure, they lost Super Bowl XII to the Dallas Cowboys, but this town had never been closer to a championship and it went crazy. It was a "coming of age" as sports writer Terry Frei wrote in his book about that season.

Bronco-mania was in full effect during and after that season. People bought orange crush soda in waves and home games became a big-time event. Bumper stickers were now produced with lines such as "If God's not a Bronco fan, why are sunsets orange and blue?"

Super fans such as the Barrel Man and the Bronco Leprachaun were also born and graced the stadium for the next 30 years.

From then on, the Broncos almost always seemed to field a competitive team, even though they weren't able to return to the Super Bowl for nine years.

In 1983, the Broncos were able to trade for No. 1 overall draft pick John Elway, which ensured the Broncos would be good for the next decade and a half.

Elway gained fans by constantly putting the team on his back and leading them to victory with his famed fourth-quarter comebacks.

The most famous comeback being "The Drive" in Cleveland in the 1986 AFC championship game when, trailing 20-13, Elway received the ball on his own two-yard line and proceeded to drive the Broncos the length of the field in under five minutes to tie the game on a touchdown pass to Mark Jackson with under one minute remaining. The Broncos won in overtime, advanced to Super Bowl XXI and a legend was born.

The Broncos were lovable losers for a while, losing three Super Bowls in four years, all in routs, but Denver went nuts every time they were close.

Finally in the 1997 season, the Broncos were able to break through and win Super Bowl XXXII. They upset the Packers 31-24 in a thrilling game that left the city breathless. After the game, people would just drive down the street honking their horns and displaying their Bronco flags proudly.

Even since Elway's retirement and the return of the team to mediocrity have not stopped fans from being passionate and intense at games. They'll boo when the team doesn't play well, but they'll cheer louder than any other fans when the team is on a roll.

The Broncos are and always will be No. 1 in Denver, and that's what I love about them and the fans.