In turbulent times such as these, it’s important to get back to the roots. With players like Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler bringing us to the height of frustration, it is critical to remember why we love this team and why we continue to give them our allegiance. Let me tell you why a boy from behind the burnt orange curtain of, Austin, Texas is a true Broncomaniac.
When I was five years old, my dad (an ear, nose and throat surgeon under contract with the United States Army), relocated to a small town called Alamosa, Colorado. Alamosa is nestled deep in the Rocky Mountains, at the very bottom/center of the state. It is a town of potato farmers, carpenters, small time musicians, Adams State College faculty and other hard working men and women who create the lifeblood of a community of 15,000.
First of all, take a look at the picture I’ve provided. You’ll notice there’s no argument that this team dominates the Rocky Mountain Region. In fact, the closest NFL team is over 600 miles away. This is why the Broncos claim a strong fan base in Wyoming, Montana, Utah, New Mexico, Idaho, Nevada and Oklahoma. Needless to say, the entire state of Colorado’s football identity is defined by the blue and orange.
When I was seven years old, hardly capable of understanding the greatness of the team I would grow to love, my dad threw a party for Super Bowl XXII against the Redskins. Wrapped up in the excitement, my sister and I painted our faces orange and blue in preparation for the game. We got destroyed. My parents' friends left early with their heads hanging low. Two years later, the same thing happened, only this time the 49ers were the culprit. Being so young, I felt little disappointment, but developed a pride for the team that would take hold of me much later on.
When we played the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, we achieved the upset we’d been waiting for and achieved a goal we’d been searching for all those years. I drove my Ford Explorer downtown and , cruised up and down a packed main street honking my horn and cheering for two hours. It was the greatest solidarity I had seen in that little town. When it happened again a year later, I was so entrenched in my teenage rebellion that I was all but focused on our reign at the top. My eighteen-year-old mind was ready to leave Alamosa, Colorado, my parents, my local high school authority figures and all the things I didn’t know I would miss so much.
Four-and-a-half years at Arizona State was awesome. I got my first taste of live football and keg parties that didn’t end with underage kids jumping out of windows and fleeing from the cops through chico bushes. For awhile, I forgot about Mike Shanahan as he struggled to keep a once-great team afloat.
When I graduated and started working full time, I fell into the routine of most football fans. On Saturday I continued to root for the Devils and on Sundays I began reconnecting with the team I had forgotten about a few years before. I also realized that we were struggling more than a little bit. What really got me hyped was when Jake the Snake Plummer became our leading man and turned more than a few Arizona folks into fellow Broncos fans. You have to realize, this was a few years before the Cardinals were even respectable.
Luckily, some of my high school friends had also made Tempe, Arizona home and my friend Kyle Barron hosted two back-to-back playoff parties. I watched our matchup with the Patriots with great anticipation. I was amongst a host of Broncos fans from all over the country and I realized there was something special about this team; about this vibe they created. Unfortunately, we lost that second game to the Steelers. It was also the symbolic end of the Snake.
Since then, I have moved to Austin, Texas and grown more and more annoyed with the fanaticism of Longhorn fans. Mack Brown and his team deserve a lot of respect, but it makes you realize who your team is. Although most of my family are alumni, jumping on the UT bandwagon just doesn’t do it for me. For the last few years, the Denver Broncos have been the connection to my childhood, to Colorado and to a team spirit that, thankfully, I have rediscovered.
Yes, last year I had high hopes and thought Shanahan would soon put the pieces together on defense. I thought Cutler would be our next Elway. I thought Marshall would be our next Rod Smith or better. Most importantly, I maintained optimism. I was reaching the pinnacle of my Broncos fandom.
Over the 2009 offseason, I have been floored by the changes we have undergone. I have come to understand that a new coach was a good thing, and yes, I will give McDaniels the benefit of the doubt. I was steaming mad after the Cutler trade. I realize though, especially amidst the boos of his latest visit to Mile High, that he wanted out of Denver the second he realized he wouldn’t be coddled by a coach that revolved the team around the quarterback. In the McDaniels/Cutler blame game, an old geezer named Bus Cook has largely escaped his due criticism. Keep that in mind.
We’re still dealing with a superstar wide receiver that, while he is one of the keys to our team, remains a glaring distraction. We still don’t know if Knowshon will produce or be a Know-Show. However, we’ve got players that bring me back to my childhood. Players like Peyton Hillis and Eddie Royal. Players who realize they play for a team that will give back to them what they contribute. Players who realize they now play for a coach who is as great, if not more, of a mastermind of NFL offense than his successor. These are players who are proud and will not whine.
I want to thank Sayre Bedinger, Chaz Mattson and the rest of you for doing a great job of sharing your gifts of writing and football knowledge to the readers on this site. Most of all, I’d like to thank each and every one of you who write and read these articles because they love this team. I am thankful to the fans who look forward to every Mile High Salute and proudly send it back. I am proud to say I am at a new pinnacle of hope for this season and the future.