As a teenager, I was what you would consider a cocky – and naïve - fan. My favorite sport at the time was baseball, and despite growing up in the suburbs of Denver I had developed a deep love for the Oakland A’s. I certainly liked the Broncos, but not with the passion I reserved for Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, the Hendersons and the rest of the crew.
I knew that professional sports had a way of kicking fans in the butt, mainly from the Broncos Super Bowl losses in 1987 and 1988 and the A’s World Series loss in 1988. However, I was always convinced my A’s were going to win, no matter what.
After they swept the World Series in 1989, my fan hubris reached a new level of ridiculousness. The next year, after another dominating regular season and playoff run, I bet a guy in my Spanish class $50 that the A’s would beat the Reds in the World Series. I was absolutely convinced my team was going to take it. I had analyzed every facet of both teams, coming up with a dozen reasons why my team would win. To top it off, I shared these with the guy – who I barely knew – and talked a lot of smack. I mean a lot of smack. The stage was set...
It was a disaster. The A’s were swept and completely embarrassed. I had trouble sleeping, and I dreaded coming into class for the next few days, as the Reds fan was relentless. There was also financial impact. Hey, $50 was a lot to a sophomore in high school back then.
This incident marked the start of my realization that professional sports will beat you down as a fan, and often the result of a game makes no sense, at least to those who analyzed it beforehand. It’s been proven time and time again no matter which team you root for, in whatever sport you choose.
Over the years, my love for the A’s dissolved. I had no connection to the city, and once all the players I grew up loving left, I lost interest in the team. My primary allegiance switched to football and the Broncos. It’s been in full force for about a decade, even getting to the point where I spent a lot of time and money making sure I could watch each and every game while I lived overseas (which I did, including preseason, often getting up at 3 a.m. to do so).
For several years, I carried the same attitude as I did with the A’s – and the one many people on this site often express: Unbridled optimism that my team was going to win.
But, as we all know, that hasn’t happened much, and after the big letdown vs. Jacksonville (coupled with meltdowns by the Avs) in the playoffs, my outlook changed forever.
This rambling introduction serves a purpose: I have become a realist, and often a pessimist, when looking at the Broncos, and any team I like for that matter. Yes, it’s a great coping mechanism, as it lessens the blow when you lose, but it’s also better than blind faith in your team. It’s not like I root for the team to fail, I just sometimes have a bad feeling about a particular matchup.
I’ve tried out all the reasons my teams should win over the years and been proven wrong over and again. My team has stronger motivation. My team has momentum, has built up some good karma, has better chemistry than the opponent. We have a daunting home field advantage, there's too much at stake. So-and-so is playing for his job, the team is playing for an injured/ill/dead teammate or coach. The fans “deserve” this win. We had a great week in practice. The other team is decimated by injuries or has a rookie in a key position.
The fact is, none of this seems to matter in the end. No matter how much you analyze a game beforehand, it almost never pans out that way. The factors you thought were going to be key (Orton is returning against his old team) don’t matter, and the ones you didn’t consider (Tebow will be playing scared) do. The keys to the game you focused on (shutting down Gronkowski and Welker, getting off to a fast start and scoring early), didn't cement a win anyway.
I am hardened, and I never buy into all the reasons we "should" win a game.
I have had an uneasy feeling going into the last two games, even though many fans more or less saw them as "gimmies." So one would think that I’d be the biggest pessimist heading into the playoffs. After all, the Steelers are an elite team, with a top-notch defense that could rattle our offense and set the tone on the opening drive.
But here’s the thing: I’m not predicting a loss. In fact, I think we’re going to take this one.
In the sea of negativity floating out there after our last loss, I find myself as one of the few people who actually seem optimistic about our chances. This is a rare position for me to be in.
Sure, it would be easy for me to list 100 reasons that Pitt will beat us. But here’s another thing I’ve learned over the years: Sometimes it’s my team that wins even when it has no business doing so. I actually think it’s much better to be the underdog, especially with this team we have this year. If you think about it, the Broncos only started losing when a lot of people began believing in them (and by “everybody” I mean critics and casual fans).
Is that the reason I think the Broncs will win? Heck no. Sometimes it's much simpler than that. In each of the last three games I’ve had that weird pit in my stomach when thinking about the Broncos. You know, the one that’s telling you this is not going to be good?
However, it's not there this time around. I actually have a strong feeling that we are going to win.
It doesn’t make sense on paper, I know. And I'm sure many of you can list plenty of reasons why we're going to get killed.
But sometimes, you just gotta go with your gut.