I was born overseas but was raised in New York City in the late 70's. As America was still fixated on baseball as the national pastime, it was a rite of passage to root for the Yankees. As I started to grow, I grew more cognizant of the fact that football was more appealing to me and thankfully, it was in the process of supplanting baseball as the top dog.
Stuck in a Jet/Giant universe, I truly never gravitated towards them and still thank God I did not end up a Cowboy or even worse, a Raider fan! The Giants were on the rise and it would've been a easy homer call to claim them as my own. It simply was not in the cards for me and I realized this on that fantastic Sunday that changed my life forever- January 11th, 1987.
This was obviously before the nationwide Sunday doubleheaders or the Primetime extravaganzas that the Broncos were rarely privy to back then but are now the norm. I saw the Broncos play the Jets that year at the Meadowlands but it didn't register at the time that the boys in orange would evolve into one of my life's true passions. We lost the regular season game to the Jets but John Elway was officially on my radar.
Fast forward to 5 minutes to go- 4th quarter- Cleveland Municipal Stadium with Keith Kartz saying, 'We got em right where we want em!'. There was something about the helmet, the jersey, the grass stains of a hard fought battle, the seemingly endless sea of humanity in brown screaming against them, the insurmountable odds and the kid from California leading them- that absolutely mesmerized me. Looking back, the Broncos had me right where they wanted me- rooting for them!
We all know what happened next that day in Cleveland as well as Pasadena not long after. It was awful hearing the insults in the ensuing days, weeks, months and ultimately years but I wore it as a badge of honor as well as earning my stripes- and I'm NOT speaking about the socks from the 60's! Again, I could've easily rooted with the grain and celebrated with Big Blue but I was blue about the orange not raising the platinum.
True commitment tends to pay off in time (Sorry Cleveland) and when we stunned the world in 1997, I sat in awe as well as shock, disbelief and bliss all at once. Years of derision, hurtful jokes (Why are the Broncos like a douche- because they are only good for one period- cackled the NY Rangers fan) and general insults left me clamoring for vengeance.Thank God the Duke helicoptered, raised the Vince and ultimately rode off into the sunset the following year and left me saying, "Now, I can die in peace!"