15 Years. 180 Months. 5475 Days.
That's how long it has been since the Denver Broncos were on this stage - the Super Bowl. That's a long time. It nearly spans the same amount of time that John Elway played quarterback for the Broncos (16 seasons). That's a long time - the longest stretch for the Broncos, in fact, in the Super Bowl era between visits.
A lot has changed for me, as a Denver Broncos fan, during that time as well. I used to kick the tires around here at MHR and during that time the Broncos went from the top of the AFC (2005) to the depths of the NFL. Many Broncos fans during that time were baptized as football fans during the late-90's, early 2000's when the Broncos were winning double-digit games, making the Playoffs every season and of course winning those back-to-back Super Bowls.
That success, along with a new generation of Broncos Country, led to an interesting dynamic. On one side there was a group that experienced nothing but success. When some losing started, panic followed and a sense of entitlement. Some just didn't realize how damn hard it is to win in the NFL.
On the other side were those fans that became die-hard Broncos' fans in the 1960's and early 1970's. Those were lean years for the Broncos filled with losing. In between are fans like me. I grew up in the 80's when the Broncos were doing plenty of both. Denver was winning, they were getting to Super Bowls, and they were getting killed.
For the early fans, and fans like me (I am 40), we've seen the worst of the worst along with the best of the best. It's hard to get to the Super Bowl - it's even harder to watch 39-20 or 42-10 or 55-10.
Those experiences hardened me, and helped me appreciate what a World Championship means. When the team finally won, after the 1997 season, there were tears. Tears of joy, tears of relief and even some tears of sadness. Sadness knowing that - in many things - the first time is the best time.
Fifteen years later I am as hungry as ever for this Super Bowl. I want to taste that Championship again. At the same time, however, I know - perhaps better than ever - just how hard of a journey this is. I have ENJOYED these playoffs like few before. I have felt at ease before each playoff game and I feel supremely confident heading into this one - not because of any Kool-Aid, or blind fandom. No. The answer is simple.
I am not afraid of losing.
There is no thought of 'What if...?" I don't care. The Denver Broncos are back at the pinnacle of the National Football League. In this 24/7/365 age of Twitter, Instagram, etc, the Broncos are the center of inst-universe. I am going to enjoy that. I am going to enjoy every minute of Sunday's pre-game show and every minute of the game.
If you lived through the lean times of the 1960's, if you rode the wave of 1977 - and the loss to the Cowboys in Super Bowl XII, if you survived The Drive and The Fumble, only to taste defeat in Super Bowl XXI, XXII and XXIV you know the pain, the sting. Enjoy This!
If your first memories of bleeding Orange and Blue began with Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Terrell Davis. With 14-win seasons, 2000-yard rushing years and Super titles, you know the joy of winning. Enjoy This!
If you are new to the scene, the Tim Tebow-era, or Elway-Manning led revival, ENJOY THIS!
I am going to ENJOY THIS. ALL OF IT. As a Denver fan, the return of my beloved-Broncos to the Super Bowl makes me feel cleansed. The last 15 years of drama - and there has been plenty - has been laid to rest. The Book Of BS closed.
Time To Ride! GO BRONCOS!