We were playing the Packers at Mile High. I knew it was a prime time game because the commercial breaks were framed by network aerial shots of an ethereal Rocky Mountain sunset with shafts of sun, towering clouds, and huge clumpy snowflakes falling. Despite the odd weather, the field was in good shape; the Broncos however were not. A week after being humiliated by the Bills on the road, we were sliding quickly into oblivion against the Packers. By the time I turned on the TV, only a minute or so into the game, the home team was down a field goal, courtesy of a turnover in our own end. Soon it was 10-0, and after only the quickest of channel surfs during the commercial break I returned to find that the Broncos had somehow managed a supernaturally fast three-and-out, and the Packers had the ball again.
To make matters worse, the visitors were starting to mock us. Lined up behind center was the 6-year old son of backup QB Sage Rosenfels. “Doesn’t he play for the Vikings?” I asked my 74-year-old mother, (a true blue-and-orange Bronco fan). Young Rosenfels could barely get the ball over the line of scrimmage, and after his first feeble incompletion, my fingers were twitching and I was pacing in front of the TV like a caged leopard in the old aquamarine cathouse at the Denver Zoo. “Why didn’t someone pick that off?!” I yelled, adding a few choice, non-MHR-appropriate expletives. “Put me in, coach!” I yelled again—this time in my head--as the carefully constructed world of my dream began to strain gently at its seams. After one play, I figured that the Pack had made their point, would have a good laugh, and Rodgers would be back in. It was only 17-0 after all (another touchdown having magically appeared on the scoreboard), and the kid wasn’t cutting it—even with the characteristic lack of pass rush from the Broncos. But he stayed in the game, and the next incompletion fell just short of my waiting hands as the pint-sized QB (number 6, in fact), his helmet way too big for him, lobbed the ball harmlessly into the flat. “I wish we still had Atwater!” I told Mom. “He’d knock that fool kid’s head off!”
But wait just a second… (the first sense that that something was amiss…) don’t we have a new coach now? Where’s McDaniels? I scanned the field, but couldn’t find him. Did he take over mid-season?? (Something was really not making sense here…) He hasn’t even had time to install the new offense! (My dream mind began to race.) Where’s B’Dawk? Who’s our QB? The dream began to shudder and creak like an aging freight train on a bumpy track, and just before it collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions, I had that sweet moment of half-conscious realization—ah, but of course,…this is just a dream!
I woke to the reassuring sensation of reality’s puzzle pieces easing back into place: the season still months away. I was also powerfully thirsty. But there on the bedside table was the tall glass of uncommonly cold orange kool-aid, just where I left it. I drank deeply….The dream is dead. Long live the dream. 13-3 baby!