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Bronco Mike, AKA 'Uncle Mike', was larger than life

Bronco Mike Gomez with Simon Fletcher
Bronco Mike Gomez with Simon Fletcher
Courtesy Kirk Davis

Is it possible to sum up a person's life in just a few paragraphs? Maybe if that person were just an average, day-to-day Joe, but that wasn't Mike. Mike was larger than life. Everything about him was big - his heart, his smile, his laugh, and his ability to absolutely love everyone he met without any judgments getting in the way.

I hate to spin this into sports so quickly, but that's how we all met. I remember my first interaction with Mike. I had just joined the MHR staff from BroncoTalk. I went into the staff chat room, and people all did their "nice to meet you" and "how long have you been a fan?" etc. You know, the normal greetings. I remember Scotty or Topher saying that it was pretty stuffy in there sometimes.

I'm not sure exactly what I said, but I gave a "typical" Pete-is-being-funny-and-stupid saying, and Mike immediately went along with it. It was as if we had been friends our whole lives. One simple greeting, and it felt like I had known him since I was 10. Nobody else struck me like that. There was no "Hi, I'm Mike" or "Hi, I'm Pete," for those are normal and mundane things to say. Mike was anything but boring and reserved. It's safe to say I liked him from the start.

Then there was the first time I actually met Mike. By this time, we were really good friends. We'd talk daily, not only in the chat room but via phone calls and texts. He really was quickly becoming one of my best friends. He was in Denver from Hugo and wanted to grab a bite to eat. He wanted a good burger, so I told him to meet me and my family at Burger Works for some burgers and beer. The first time I met Mike in person is the first time my wife and twins met him also. We all gave him a hug (I'm a hugger), and we had the most enjoyable two-hour burger hangout I've ever had.

He instantly became "Uncle Mike." That's an honor bestowed on very few people walking this planet.

He was so alive, so caring, and was great around my girls. He took all the questions that little 7 or 8-year-olds would have at the time and answered them with humor and a smile. He really made them feel at home, and he instantly became "Uncle Mike." That's an honor bestowed on very few people walking this planet.

Over the next few years, we would see each other almost every time he came to Denver. If he was on an extended visit, it wouldn't be unusual to see the two of us chilling out next to a lake eating sushi, or over at my place watching football and drinking beer. I took him to Bayou Bobs downtown for a Saints game. He really enjoyed that. I made him try their Cajun combeaux (combo), so he could see what Cajun food tasted like. He had never had any up to that point. What did he say about it? He said "it's creamy." Haha. I know, that's stupid to remember, but most people say: "Wow, that's amazing. The flavors are great." But Mike? No. Again, that's too easy for a guy like Mike. Needless to say, many, many Hurricanes later, the Saints won, and we had a blast.

Then there are the epic chat room rants we would have. Half of the stuff I said was to just get a reaction out of Mike. I mean, you know when people say, "it'll never be the same without you buddy," when someone quits their job or moves on? To say that the MHR family will never be the same without Mike is doing a great disservice to him, yet it has to be said that none of us will ever be the same without Mike.

There will never again be another, "C.J. Anderson won't get cut and put on the practice squad you moron. Some team will pick him up," then Mike and everyone else chiming in "he's had four carries. He can get stashed, nobody will pick him up." And me sticking to my guns until Scotty told us to shut up and just make a bet and move on. Yeah Mike, you still owe me that $50. Haha. Oh, and don't think I'm not visiting your family and giving them some of my "gringo" green chili. You know it's great!

What's horrible is the wake of destruction that happens once a loved member dies. Whether you believe in heaven or you think that everything simply goes dark, there are real people being affected who are still alive. It's our feelings and emotions that take the burden, and it's our memories of the deceased that live on. I've dealt with death before, but not quite like this. Mike was just different. I'm not going to have him next to me on the couch, or across the table from me while we just shoot the shit. I mean, we just had dinner with him last freaking week! It was mid-week, so we went home early (7:30 p.m) because we had to go to sleep so we could wake up for work. That was the last time we saw Mike! That was it! Done! No more! Why couldn't we have stayed an extra hour? Or two? Or three? We figured we'd see him again on Monday and life would be good. But Monday never came.

So now I get to spend the last few days, alone with my wife, sharing each other's tears. Raising toast after toast and saying, "To Mike," everywhere we go. There hasn't been a single drink, from the second we learned about his passing, that hasn't had a toast in Mike's honor attached to it. Each time I pull myself together for five minutes, I look over at my beautiful wife and see tears running down her face because she too loved Mike. It's a vicious cycle, the tears and the pain. Thinking you'll be OK and then realizing that four hours have passed and you haven't said a single word or stopped staring at the wall. Having your wife say, "You need to eat," and knowing she's right, but just not having an appetite, all the while knowing that she's suffering in silence every bit as much.

So what are we left with now? We're left with a hole in our hearts and heads that nothing can fill. There will never be another Mike. I'll have to pretend that the Broncos exist independently from him. I'll have to watch games knowing I cannot call him or text him or hand him another beer if he's next to me. He loved the Broncos so much that you can't mention Mike without mentioning the Broncos. Even when you know someone so well outside of the realm of sports like I do and my wife does, you always come back to sports with him. Perhaps it was because sports was his thing. Sports was his love. When most others have passions outside of sports, all Mike had was music and the Broncos, and he put every ounce of heart and soul that he had into both of them.

So now the upcoming season is happening. If you believe in God, then you know Mike has the best seat in the house. If you don't, then I suppose it just doesn't matter. But there is one thing I can promise Mike and everyone on the planet... when the dust settles and the smoke clears, and the Broncos are world champions, we'll hear a familiar phrase uttered once again, but it won't be from Pat Bowlen. No, instead it'll be from me. I'll raise my toast like Bowlen raised the trophy and proclaim, "This one's for Mike!"