I'm a Denver native. For those of us who have ever been sick on Mr. Twister, swam in the colored balls at Funtastic, used to watch the "old" airplanes of Frontier and Continental Airlines (The "old" ones) land at Stapleton, or spent all day bowling, swimming, and playing video games while chugging Pepsi and eating superpretzels at Celebrity, we ALL have one thing in common.
The Orange and Blue.
For me, I was born in Denver but lived in Albuquerque Briefly during the magic of 1977. Even there, Orange Fever was prevalent, as some of the kids wore Orange Crush shirts and professed their love for the regional team. When my family found their way back to Denver, it was very shortly after the Phipps' sold the team and Edgar Kaiser purchased the Broncos, letting go of now Ring of Fame bound Red Miller and hiring future Hall of Fame coach Dan Reeves. Thus, behind Steve DeBerg and an aging Craig Morton, the Broncos were still loved but ultimately crashed to a disastrous 2-7 strike shortened 1982, which led to the 4th overall pick in the 1983 draft. Funny how things work out. That draft changed everything. It changed the NFL DRAFT ITSELF. It changed the Broncos. It changed the fans. And come to think of it...it changed Denver. The fans passion was already unparalleled, the addition of the '83 draft class, and particularly the addition of a certain highly touted quarterback, simply put it into overdrive.
In those years when John Elway began his illustrious career, I'm sure few fans recall the chants of "Kubiak" at Mile High Stadium out of frustration watching the future Duke of Denver develop into an NFL star. But my goodness were those exciting times. I cannot EVER forget playing football in our friends backyard on December 11, 1983. We watched some of the Broncos game, but like most people lost interest when we were down 19-0 with all hopes looking lost, that is, until an unexplainable 21 point rally in the fourth quarter foreshadowed what was to come for the next decade and a half. It was so cold outside that night but none of us noticed after watching Gerald Willhite crash over the goal line. And more important than the acquisition of number 7 that year, was the purchase of the franchise by Mr. B the next. We're all aware of his accolades as an owner, but I'm particularly proud, as I'm sure most fans are, when mentioning that under his ownership, we've been to more Super Bowl's than we've had losing seasons. Among his numerous contributions to our beloved club was the formation of the Ring of Fame the year he bought the team, and as a kid I loved NOTHING MORE than to hear the stories of Frank Tripucka, Lionel Taylor, the striped socks, Floyd Little, Charley Johnson, Goose Gonsoulin and the MANY, MANY others who played key roles in our franchises success.
It was certainly no coincidence that just s few years after Mr. B took over, "The Drive" captivated us, and "The Fumble" gave our fandom an even greater sense of pride, albeit in the face of multiple Super Bowl losses. But that Stadium would rock, shake and give anyone a Rocky Mountain headache the size of McNichols Arena when that noise would get going. Whether watching Steve Foley run a fumble back in a blizzard on Monday Night Football, or Louie Wright run back a blocked field goal for an overtime win, I could NEVER EVER say I wasn't completely in love with this team. Like John said in one of his NFL films interviews, our fans may get frustrated with us, but they'll never leave us...truer words were never spoken. And one decade and one Hall of Fame running back/tight end later, "The Helicopter" was the highlight of the game that turned all us fans into something we cherish and strive to be forever: Champions.
Now with our franchise run by our former Hall of Fame quarterback, and the recent addition of another Lombardi to the case (with neat gold "50" numbers, in fact) I'm a fan that will be here come hell or high water. Like a lot of us, I'll fry at Dove Valley in the Summer, love the Fall at the stadium, and bundle up with however many Orange layers it takes come November/December. In short, as Matthew McConnaghey told Jason London in Dazed and Confused at the pool hall..."I'm here man." No matter the time, temp or season, you'll find me. So why am I a fan? I have to be. This is our lifeblood. It's our greatest identity. I don't think we chose it...rather, it chose us. But whatever our story is, and they come from many different places, we're in it together. Or, as the sign on the side of Levi's stadium said at Super Bowl 50 "United in Orange."
As the famous bumper stickers will ask you, "If God's not a Broncos fan, then why are Sunsets Orange?" John Denver saw it rain fire from the sky. I see a reminder of our passion. Each and every night of the year.