Mile High Report is a special community second to none. A place where writers and readers alike come to share their thoughts and opinions for a team we will never quit on. It's an amalgamation of genius and personal memory that has and will continue to stand the test of time. Despite our differences and unique histories, we all hold a common bond that helps perpetuate our unyielding interest in our beloved team.
How did we become fans?
It's a question I've always pondered and one I often ask friends regardless of their team allegiance. Outside sharing memorable moments from games and times gone past, connecting on this level with family, friends and strangers who share the same passion of the gridiron as I do is one of the most rewarding experiences a sports fan can have.
Why are we Broncos fans?
The answers vary, but many of them share common threads. Most have answered they were born into it. There was no choice in the matter. "From day one, I bled orange and blue." This highlights an instance of a specific culture passed down from generation to generation. When a certain family lives in a particular area they tend to root for the local team closest in geographic reference. It's understandable, expected and extraordinarily commonplace. This is perhaps why there is such a regional fervor throughout the globe regarding sports.
Not all fandom happens that way, though My journey to Broncos fandom seems quite different than most, and one I will share shortly. I will preface the forthcoming discourse by stating that choosing a different team than the one historically honored by family can make you an outcast among brethren and blood. There has been and always will be evidence of a black-sheep appearing out of nowhere, only to stray away from all he had ever known.
Fortunately, I can call myself one of those black-sheep . . . and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Growing up East of the Missouri River in the flattened prairies of South Dakota, the team most admired in my home state is the Minnesota Vikings. My father was a Vikings fan, as was most of my family, but I could never force myself into liking a team by virtue of what my ancestors favored.
Yelling and screaming at the television is an occurrence in most households on Sunday's, but the sadness and continuous mood swings from family members over the consistently mediocre performance of the Vikings was a major turn off. Even at a young age, I couldn't see myself rooting for a team that evoked those type of feelings. The team just didn't seem up to par. Long-term, I never envisioned (and maintain to this day) that the franchise in question would ever be a winner. Looking back, it might have been a questionable reason to walk away from tradition, but I'm glad I made that move.
And thus began the search for a new team to make my own.
Kids do the darnedest things.
The way they formulate opinions and make decisions is a far different caliber than those of adults, but regardless of age — we all do something to stick out and try to be different. Blue had always been my favorite color and upon shopping at K-Mart for a Halloween costume, I came across a Buffalo Bills uniform and helmet set from Riddell, which many of you likely had (but a different team) as you ascended through your youth. It seemed like an obvious choice and my Kindergarten self decided that was the best buy at the time.
The outfit itself made me feel ten foot tall and bullet proof. I'd wear that costume anytime or anywhere. Perhaps my idolization for football players was a primary culprit, but I just couldn't help myself. Rain, snow or shine, I loved sporting my blue and red Bills' gear. What once seemed like love at first sight ended up in a painful divorce. Friends consistently made fun of me for the Super Bowl losses the team endured to the Cowboys and I no longer found solace and happiness sporting it.
I wasn't the only person in my family adverse regard to rooting for the Vikings. My older sister happened to venture into unforgivable territory and by her teens, professed her never ending love for Brett Favre and all things Green Bay. I'm not sure what sprung her to cheer for the Packers, but a part of my believes going against the grain and giving the proverbial "bleep you" to everyone in the region by choosing their biggest rival gave her some sort of gratification.
Knowing I was in search of a new team, she decided to get me Green Bay Packers clothes for Christmas and get me to wear them to school. Oddly enough, my grade school teacher at the time, Mr. Melde, hailed from Wisconsin and thought it was great to have a "Packers fan" amidst all the diehard Viking fans in the classroom. Half-assed allegiance to a team paid off. I seemed to get away with the littlest things just a tad bit more than the other students. They weren't dumb, so they too decided to play along.
As the endless days of school roared on, the number of Packers fans continued to grow as well. Everyone aspired to be in the good graces of the elementary school's coolest teacher. It was the hip thing to do and a general consensus amongst kids that hopping on the Cheesehead bandwagon would land them endless preferential treatment in class. Some of us even thought it could garner us better grades.
But a team marriage that seemed like it would last forever came crashing down like a falling star. Shortly before the year was over, Mr. Melde informed us he wouldn't be back to teach the next school year. It was heart-breaking for me, losing by far the coolest teacher ever had but also knowing that my naive and impressionable self would be looking for a new team to root for next season.
Then came the Broncos.
It was 1995 and rumbles came out of West River (the opposite side of South Dakota), that the Denver Broncos under new coach Mike Shanahan were a team to look out for. After enduring success with the San Francisco 49ers, Shanahan earned another chance at becoming a NFL head coach and many believed he had what it took to make the Broncos Super Bowl caliber. The Broncos games always seemed to air on the opposite channel of Vikings games, so I figured why not give the Broncos a shot? Easily one of the best decisions I ever made.
The Broncos finished the 1995 campaign with a 8-8 record, just one game better than the year prior, but had significant improvements statistically on offense and defense. The future was bright and for the franchise and fans alike, the best was yet to come, but not without a little heartbreak first. Jacksonville in 1996 — that's all a person has to say to a Broncos fan to make their blood boil. I remember that game vividly as if it were yesterday. I can remember what I was wearing, what items were around me and even what I had to eat that day. For better or worse, it's a memory that is forever engraved in my mind and likely all fans who were old enough to understand the cruelty of that day after bearing witness to the best regular season the team had ever had.
What goes down must come up and fast forward a few years later and the Broncos were on top of the world. Back-to-back NFL champions. A rare feat accomplished by few teams, making it an even memorable experience for fans. How I felt those years can't adequately be described in words, but it's sort of like the feeling you get when you strike a kid out in Little League or win your first minor league baseball championship in sandlot ball. Man, it just felt good.
In the years that followed, the Broncos would undergo significant changes and have their fair share of roller coaster moments. All-time greats who helped spawn Super Bowl victories faded from the field, but the spirit of their accomplishments in 1997 and 1998 live on to this day. I consider myself fortunate enough to have had a "Rocky Mountain High" at such a young age, but am even more anxious to experience it once more.
Here is to hoping that 2015 brings back the glory the old days once gave us. Go Broncos!
Writer's Note: Please share the story on you became a Broncos fan in the comments.