For those who didn’t know, I have been a Broncos fan my entire life and have been blogging about them since the summer of 2008, despite being stuck on the east coast my entire life. I run my own website and contribute to several others (including this one), and can never get enough of all things Broncos.
Because of my location, I’ve only ever been to one training camp and a handful of Broncos games (all road games, relatively close to my proximity). So when the 2011 NFL regular season schedule came out last summer and I saw that the Broncos would be playing in Buffalo this year, I informed my family that it was not an option not to go.
But as summer ended, fall arrived and high school football came and went (much too quickly), I all but forgot about the Broncos game in Buffalo and never pursued trying to get tickets to the game (until a few days before when it was already too late). Then, on the Thursday before the eve of Christmas Eve, my older sister Krystal (whom I flew to Denver with in 2010 to attend training camp), surprised the family at dinner with ten tickets to the game in Buffalo — one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received!
My sister bought the tickets and my Dad worked out our accommodations – including eating arrangements for my Mom, two brothers, sister-in-law, nephew, four sisters, and myself. The surprises didn’t end there though.
Dad had gotten in contact the Broncos Executive Director of Media Relations, Patrick Smyth, and arranged for Krystal and I to receive pregame sideline passes, but he didn’t tell me until the night before the game. Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night. I had had relations with Mr. Smyth in the past because of my work covering the Broncos, but had never met him before and was anxious to do so — as well as stand on the Broncos sideline before a game.
On game day, we received our passes and went down to the visiting teams tunnel, walking by Denver’s locker room on the way out on to the field. As we walked out of the tunnel, there was Broncos rookie linebacker Von Miller signing fans’ memorabilia hanging over the edge of the tunnel entrance. My sister and I met Mr. Miller (he was nearly as big as he was polite) and he signed the back of my jersey (that’s going to be framed) before taking a picture with me.
I have no doubt what my profile picture will be on every social networking site for the foreseeable future.
After meeting Miller, we watched Lance Ball, Jeremiah Johnson and Matt Willis practice returning kicks, saw Broncos’ Vice President of Football Operations John Elway come out onto the field, and watched quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Brady Quinn warm up — all just a few feet away from the action. Then I had the pleasure of meeting Patrick, and when I say pleasure I truly mean it.
Mr. Smyth was the most personable guy I have ever met and was very positive and encouraging about my work covering the Broncos. We talked about how blogs and social media are changing how NFL teams are covered by the media, the Broncos’ playoff scenarios, and my future plans — which are somewhat up in the air, but will hopefully involve attending college for sports journalism within two autumns from now.
I also received a letter from Mr. Elway (via Patrick) commending my coverage of the Broncos and encouraging me to pursue my future aspirations. By now, I didn’t care how the game went (and it’s a good thing, too); I had already had several of the greatest experiences of my life!
About fifteen minutes before kickoff, everyone had to leave the sideline and we went back to our stadium seats to watch the game. The game didn’t go anything like we — particularly myself — had hoped it would, but the experience and spending time with family was still enjoyable. I’ll remember everything that happened before kickoff for the rest of my life, as it was the greatest Christmas weekend I’ve ever had.
I am extremely grateful to my family (especially Dad and Krystal), Patrick, Mr. Elway and the entire Broncos organization for making Saturday, December 24th of 2011 one of the most memorable days of my life. Go Broncos!