John "TheSportsGuru" Bena
John Bena started Mile High Report almost a decade ago, but as the staff has morphed into almost an entirely new group, many here may not fully appreciate just what Bena did nine years ago. But one member (and former contributor) Jeremy Bolander knows Bena as well as anyone and has provided not just an outstanding tribute to his friend, but also an incredible MHR history lesson for all of us:
If you were a displaced Bronco fan in the summer of '06, far from home and desperately searching for news and opinion on the Internet, you were probably pretty disappointed.
If you were searching for information or honest discussion, you were feeling pretty lost out there.
But you weren't alone.
John Bena was one of those fans, but unlike most of us, he had a plan. He had been an early adopter of the "blogging" platform for sports-specific ramblings, posting thoughts on any sport, league or team that caught his encyclopedic interest as TheSportsGuru, but nowhere did his insight shine more than about his beloved Broncos.
And when he was approached by a fledgling SBNation to join its stable of NFL bloggers, he saw an opportunity. He created the "Mile High Report" and from the crucible of the hostile and dubious "flame wars" of that hot summer, he wrote his first rule of MHR blogging:
Bena: The day I started MHR(August 24th, 2006) I wanted MHR to be a positive place for Broncos fans to talk about Denver Broncos football. The main stream media, as well as fan message-boards, have become breeding grounds for negativity making it almost ‘uncool' to actually say anything nice about the team or players. I wanted to change that. I wanted to give real Broncos fans a place that it was ok to look at the bright side of things, in good and bad times. That doesn't mean we aren't critical of the Broncos, but we aren't negative. There is a difference.
In the same breath, John also created his second rule of MHR blogging, what he felt would set it apart in the coming years, and ultimately, what it would be when he was gone:
Bena: I also make a point of letting the community know that MHR really belongs to them. By creating a sense of ownership in the community they can handle any issue that arise. That way I don't need to ‘police' the site and can focus on content. It reminds me of a solid NFL lockerroom. If there are quality leaders in a locker room, and the players police themselves, the coaches can focus on game plans. Any malcontents fall into line because they know they'll have to follow the rules of the community or they won't be part of it. This attitude worked when there was 30 members and it works with 3000 members.
Like any good team, the leaders and coaches have come and gone, but a culture was cultivated where new ones were always ready, and willing, to step up.
John's personal contributions to the site were numerous, from the ink-stained wretch soloing the daily posts for years, to the constant support of members who would become contributors and often, staffers, here or elsewhere, to the long, slow process of developing cred with the Broncos' public relations team.
Forget the painful 2005 playoff loss where "Good Jake" inexplicably imploded and forget the shocking move in the draft when Shanny jumped up and took one of the 2006 "Big Three" QBs - a sleepy-eyed, small-school gunslinger named Jay Cutler.
No, the disappointment stemmed from an unrelenting tide of negativity, pushed along primarily by a mooning mainstream media, including the now defunct Rocky Mountain News, that had been dialing up a listless vitriol against the Broncos since 2001, the year taxpayers got roped into financing a mega stadium for the franchise. The banging of the MSM drum fostered a disapproving and deprecating environment that in turn fostered some of the ugliest forums and discussion boards on the web.
The best compliment someone could give - and it was given often - was that once someone found MHR, they never wanted to go anywhere else for their Broncos news. Through the years, the offerings have changed, but that has remained the same.
One offering missed by many, and probably the best example of what John meant to MHR, was his MHR Radio show - always anticipated and even at three hours or more, never long enough. John's classic rants always gave voice to what Broncos fans were feeling frustrated by during the week, and his interactions with the audiences, by far the biggest logistical hurdle to manage, but one that John wouldn't do the show without, were spontaneous and fun, and as honest a look at a blogger as anyone has ever been given, before or since.
I'll never forget how John spent months building a soundproof "man-cave" for the radio show, ostensibly so he could cut out the interruptions and distractions while providing a more professional broadcast, and then would invite his daughters in to say goodnight to all of us, with a hearty "Go Broncos!"
It is an honor to know him and to call him a friend, and ultimately to share that privilege with so many others who found and knew MHR through him, and him through MHR. Even if you never met John, you know the standards and expectations of the site that he set, and you know it's just a bit different from any other place you could go to talk Broncos.
And in so much as you know these things, then you know John Bena.
Mike Gomez, aka Bronco Mike, left this world all too early, but not before leaving behind a legacy of great analysis, unparalleled film breakdown and writing that was always a delicate mix of harsh sarcasm, biting criticism and light humor. But no matter what he wrote, Bronco Mike's genuine love for the team was always evident.
A writer at Mile High Report for just over four years, Mike passed away suddenly in June 2015. Though the rules for the "Author Hall of Fame" state the writer must have been gone from MHR for at least a year, as a staff and community it seemed a fitting tribute to this larger-than-life personality and writer to honor him with the Hall of Fame induction as soon as possible.
Mike lived and breathed Broncos football and was very vocal in his opinions. If you didn't know him well, his retorts in comments or on social media could come off as angry, mean-spirited diatribes. But if you hung on just a few more seconds, you'd know it was really just a deep passion for the Broncos and for winning - and that he considered all Broncos fans true friends.
His SBNation profile reads: Been a Bronco fan since I was brought into this world in 84'. I am a musician and teacher.
He was certainly a teacher to all of us at MHR and the loss of his insight, passion, humor and genuine love for the team will remain a hole that cannot be replaced but will always be remembered.
Congratulations and a Mile High Salute to two great authors - John Bena and Bronco Mike. Share some of your favorite memories about these two authors while congratulating them in the comments!
MHR Hall of Fame
Sportspersons of the Year
Pat Bowlen (2013-14)
Peyton Manning (2014-15)
Class of 2013-14
Class of 2014-15
Class of 2013-14
Class of 2014-15
Kaptain Kirk (2013-14)
John Bena (2014-15)
Bronco Mike (2014-15)