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On Fans And Fandom: The Broncos, Peyton Manning And Tim Tebow

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There is a huge elephant in the room. We all keep shuffling by it, squeezing past it, trying not to run into it head on. Before we find out exactly who will win the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, let's talk about this Broncos Fan/Tebow Fan business.

As many of you know - and the rest of you are about to know - I live in Cleveland. I have lived here for the past 30 years. I lived here through the Elway years - The Drive, The Fumble and the ho-hum victory in 1989. I also was here for the entire LeBron James-era in Cleveland, from the day in 2003 when the Cavaliers won the NBA Draft Lottery until LeBron went on ESPN with The Decision in 2010. For me, it was my first experience with the idea of fans that follow and support a player over the team, and has me prepared for what is happening within Broncos Country now.

I want to stress something. I'm not here to label you, to put you into a box, or to stereotype you. I'm not going to mention names, not going to 'Call Anyone Out'. If what is said here strikes a nerve, that's a 'you problem'.

Back to LeBron. When the Cavaliers selected James, then went on to win a ton of games, there was an influx of 'new' Cavaliers fans. Fans that supported a team BECAUSE of the player. That was a change for me. I grew up believing you supporting the players BECAUSE of the team.

I was always asked, during the Elway years, what I would do if he left Denver. This nearly came to fruition in the early 90's when Dan Reeves tried to win a power struggle with Elway by having him dealt to the Washington Redskins.

My answer was always the same - "I'm a Broncos fan, not an Elway fan. If he leaves, so be it."

I had jerseys, posters, collected every SI cover that Elway was on. If he left, it would have hurt me deeply, but my love for the Broncos - for the name on the front of the jersey - went much deeper. Prior to free agency, players rarely switched teams, especially in their prime, so the two types of fans - team based and player based - rarely saw any friction. The two sides lived in harmony.

Not any more. The business of the NFL, and sports in general, has caused infighting between the two groups. It's also created a large gray area where some fans get lost in a void and unfairly labeled. It's troubling, to be honest, and creates a vicious circle.

Luckily for all of us, it is easy to differentiate between the two main groups. In the LeBron example, his fans ceased supporting the Cavs once he took his talents to South Beach. It was refreshing, in a lot of ways, to be done with those who felt all the winning was BECUASE LeBron, and every loss was someone else's fault. As a Cavs fan who saw - and called out - LeBron's blemishes, the infighting among Cavs fans stopped. Why? Because those Cavs fans that left weren't really Cavs fans. They were LeBron fans that supported that Cavs as long as it was in their best interest.

Sound familiar?

Look in the mirror and ask this question. If Peyton Manning is signed, what will I do? If Tim Tebow is traded, what will I do? I know there are fans out there that joined Broncos Country because of Tim Tebow and that's ok. I have a feeling I'll know what your answer is. But as a Broncos fan, that supports Tebow - but also supported Orton, Cutler, Plummer, Griese, et al - I hope you know what my answer will be.

I'm not a Tebow-hater because I think the Broncos will be a better team with Peyton Manning in 2012. I am fully prepared to support Tim Tebow if he is the starting quarterback. Many fans I have heard from feel the same. Are you fully prepared to support Peyton Manning if he is the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos in 2012?

In any community there are several different types of people - race, creed, religion, male, female. We all co-exist, however, and within our closer-knit community, in our apartment complex, or on our street, or our dorm-room, these relationships co-exist often times because we know where the other people are coming from. You likely have friends that don't believe what you believe socially, or politically, or religiously, or within the sports world. You can get along because you know what is in their heart and they know what is in yours.

In the internet world it gets more difficult. MHR is a community of nearly 11,000. Only a small few have the type of relationship I spoke of above. Through my writing, and MHR Radio, many of you know where I am coming from. I support the Broncos. I don't agree with everything they do, and at times they piss me off and I'm not afraid to criticize them, but my support will never waiver.

Where is your heart? Where are you coming from?

There are Broncos fans that believe the Broncos would be better off with Tebow. I've talked to some of you, some that have been around MHR since the beginning - long before Tebow - so I know where your heart is. Those fans get swept into the void I talked about - not "Tebow-Fans", per se, but blasted by those that think Manning is the answer, or those that simply want anyone but Tebow. Get to know these guys and gals. Decide for yourself where people are coming from.

I know this has been rambling and I apologize. Take the time to tell the community who you are and what is in your Broncos heart, and more importantly, take the time to listen. Forget what you THINK you know about someone and start new. Separate the Broncos from Pre-2008 from the 2009-10 Broncos and the 2011-Now Broncos. Three different regimes. Don't label other fans. If you feel you are mislabeled, take the time to explain. If you are a Tim Tebow fan that will simply follow him to another team should it come to that, say so. I respect you more for being honest about it than trying to camouflage yourself.

I don't know what is going to happen today, tomorrow, next season or in the future. I just know that whatever happens, I'll be right here supporting the Denver Broncos. Will you?