The Broncos are going to Super Bowl XLVIII. That hasn’t happened since I was in the 8th grade, when they won back-to-back SBs with John The-Comeback-Kid Elway. (I realize that isn’t an official nickname of his, but just go with it. After all, he was known for his 4th quarter come-from-behind wins.)
My family’s relationship with the Denver Broncos is that of any great, deep-rooted relationship. In many ways, the Broncos are our lovers. We are wildly passionate about them, yet we will scream with just and unjust cause. They make us cry with affection and admiration and cry with disappointment. Sometimes we feel like it is a one-way street, and our feelings aren’t reciprocated. We need breaks from one another, it is stressful to be around them sometimes. But, on the other hand, we are unashamed to shout our love for them…as long as they haven’t embarrassed us.
My mom’s family is from Colorado, so I grew up in a Bronco-crazed household. It didn’t hurt that until I was 13 I lived in the Wild Wild West of western South Dakota and Wyoming. My dad’s liking of the Vikings just never took hold. Maybe that’s because he didn’t celebrate touchdowns, great plays, infuriating mistakes, and miraculous comebacks the way my mom did — with jumping, yelling, doing cheers with the crowd on TV, pretending she was with the players in the end zone after a touch down. He never wore a jersey. She has jerseys, throw blankets, mugs, and pennants. I think at one time there were bronco sweat pants and socks? Yes…those definitely existed. And, to top it off, my dad never jumped so high and flailed his arms so much in celebration that he broke a light on the ceiling fan. Mom did, so her team won my heart.
For many years the Broncos were known as the team who could make it to the Super Bowl, but just couldn’t win one for the gipper. (Who/what is the gipper anyway?) During the 1980s, the Broncos made the Super Bowl three out of four years. And they lost all three times! Then it happened in 1998…destiny.
And I write the word destiny because my family and some family friends actually used that word once Super Bowl XXXII was won. Let me tell you how destiny unfolded at our house in Newcastle, Wyoming.
This story is all on VHS at my parents’ house, and I wish desperately I could just upload video footage and let it speak for itself, buy my literary description will have to do.
Equally avid fans, the Clarke’s came over for the game. Two other friends were over as well, one of them a Packer’s fan. Besides not letting her eat or use the restroom, we let her have a legit spot on the couch. We were a family of multiple TVs, so there was the main TV out front, the kind that sat on the floor with wood encasing it. There was my sister’s 13″ TV/VHS player that she had recently received for Christmas. And there was another TV out in the garage that we had converted to a “rec room” — air hockey table, dart board, and Super Nintendo. You know it sounds cool for the 90s.
At the beginning of the tape/evening, we are all so excited. Our Bronco gear is in full bloom. We’ve put streamers around the house, bought blue and orange paper products, and made encouraging signs out of construction paper and magic markers that said things like “Kill the Packers.” You hear everyone talking with great optimism, the d-word comes up some, but we don’t want to be too confident. We’ve (as in our parents) had been disappointed too many times a decade ago. Plus, this was towards the end of Elway’s career and Bret Farve and the Packers were coming off a championship season the year before. In fact, the Packers had never lost a Super Bowl in franchise history.
As the pregame fan fair was happening, we cheered with the crowd when the Broncos were announced. We booed when the Packers were announced. Things were heating up. Literally. I had jeans on, but switched to my two-size too big khaki cargo shorts because I was too warm. It was a tomboy stage, let’s not talk about it.
Without going into the play-by-play of the game, you can see that here, I will just touch on some highlights that will paint the, oh-so-beautiful picture. And if you have a foam finger, now is the time to put it on. I had one during this game and I think it will really help you picture yourself watching side-by-side with us in our burm home living room.
– Yelling. Lots of yelling. Usually accompanied by pulling one’s hair, trying not to swear because we didn’t swear in our household, pacing, dropping one’s head in aggravation, or all of the above.
– Screaming. A lot of screaming. I’m differentiating screaming here for two reasons: 1) I equate screaming with excitement and yelling with disappointment in one’s team and 2) cheering does not do whatever we were doing justice. This was a close game with our family history having a chance to be re-written. Screaming was usually paired with jumping, hugging, high fives, saying mean things about the Packers, maybe dancing, and if a touch down was scored, of course, the Mile High Salute.
– Movement. If I (along with my friend, Amy) felt the team was doing good we’d stay in the room. If there was a bad play we’d go watch on another TV. Needless to say, we moved a lot because to us, every play was bad or good, life or death. For everyone else, their location was more static. Adults in the living room, the little sisters in my sister’s room, and the teen boys in the rec room.
– Nudity. Family friendly nudity, obviously. At one point in the game, the teenage boys thought things would go better if they painted/magic markered their chests. This was my boyfriend from the 4th grade, he was in 6th. But, I had no interest in re-kindling that relationship because those boys shirtless was pure good luck, we were winning!
– Omens. Everything we could read into, we did. Oh it is Super Bowl XXXII (32, so you don’t have to think too hard) and the game is on January 25? 32 – 25 = 7 = Elway’s number = good omen! The most prophetic was the sunset towards the end of the game. It was definitely blue and orange. It is on tape, so you can trust me. Destiny was “setting” in…
– The final moments. Denver scored the winning touchdown with 1:45 left. It was a Terrell Davis running play. There was a reason my parents’ had me born on the same day as this man. He was a Bronco hero by scoring the winning touchdown for the team’s first Super Bowl Championship. So what if I was born 13 years before this day? Destiny, my friends. Amy and I finished watching the game in my sister’s room on her daybed, eyes mostly shut. We probably sounded like we were lamaze breathing. I recall my sister and her sister were huddled in there too. Once it became apparent that Denver was going to win, it was time for one of those group-hugs-while-jumping.
– Tears. There were tears. We all cried. Well maybe just the moms and daughters, proudly holding true to the stereotype. On tape, we are screaming and celebrating so loudly that it becomes that cackled, “oh you should turn down the volume” sound.
– Car decorating. As any good fan and/or traveling soccer family of the time would do, we got out our neon chalk paint markers and decorated our two-toned blue Suburban and The Clarke’s Chevy Astro van. It was time to proclaim the good news!
After things settled down a bit, we made sure to get our hands on quite a stock of paraphenalia. I still have my baseball hat, holographic sticker and all. We have posters, framed. I think there still is a commemorative 6-pack of bottled Coke in the basement. And you better believe that special edition of Sports Illustrated sat on our coffee table for years and is still in a bin in storage. We could probably start a traveling collection to local community museums. The next year we had moved to Iowa and we watched on our own. We painted our nails blue and orange and decorated a little, but we were in Iowa now. People there just didn’t get it. The Broncos won. It was still exciting to be back-to-back champions, but it just wasn’t the same.
February 2, 2014 will be another important day in my family’s history. This will be my first Super Bowl with The H. It will be my parents’ first Super Bowl with their vaulted ceilings, so ceiling fans are out of my mom’s reach. It will be Peyton Manning’s first Super Bowl with the Broncos. It will be the first Super Bowl played in New Jersey. Manning’s is #18. The game is on 2/2/14. You do the math. It is luck, or is it destiny?