I constantly tell my friends from other parts of the country that Denver is a Broncos town. We have the Nuggets, Avalanche, and Rockies, but we just don’t love these other teams in the same way we’d instantly take a bullet for our Broncos. Denver bleeds blue and orange instead of blue and gold, blue and crimson, or black and purple because no matter what happens we always believe the Broncos will make the playoffs up until the moment it becomes mathematically impossible.
Even then, we think someone at ESPN has fudged the equation. I personally don’t give in until Mark Schlereth stares into the camera and intensely states, “The Denver Broncos are now officially out of the running this year.” I can hear the disappointment in his voice. Through the screen we are on the same page. I finally allow reality to set in because I know it hurts Schlereth to break this piece of news as much as it troubles me to digest it.
There is something fleeting and nostalgic about NFL football that sets The League apart from other professional sports. The truth is that we have a very limited amount of time to watch our favorite Broncos perform. Yes, NFL careers seem to grow shorter every year due to the genetic mutation of linebackers. That however is not my main point here. We can understand our passion for the Broncos by considering the obvious: there are only sixteen 48-minute games during the regular season. If the Broncos don’t qualify for the postseason, we only view 768 minutes of Bronco football in a given year. At 33 minutes per game, Carmelo Anthony plays 768 minutes of basketball well before the All-Star Break each season. Joe Sakic has logged more than 15,000 minutes of ice time in an Avalanche sweater. A baseball game could feasibly last an eternity, so for all we know Larry Walker may have played 525,600 minutes (a full year) of baseball during his nine and a half seasons with the Rockies.
Although John Elway played fifteen seasons in Denver and his legacy continues to awe us, how many minutes did he actually spend under center? The answer to this question makes me feel as though I took Elway for granted. Furthermore, I’m now clinically depressed because I was unable to TiVo every second of the Terrell Davis years.
Elway appeared in 234 regular season games and 22 postseason games during his career. Assuming the offense was on the field for exactly one half of each game in which he played, Denver fans had the opportunity to watch Elway lead the offense for only 6,144 minutes over the course of one and half decades. To put that figure in perspective, Allen Iverson logged 3,444 minutes on the court for the Nuggets during the ’07-’08 season. In one NBA season, we witnessed Allen Iverson, a player we traded three games into the following season, play for 56% as long as Colorado’s greatest athlete of all-time. Wow. Who feels like they let a moment pass them by? (Note: My hand is in the air)
There are precious moments in every sport. However, one minute in the NFL is more meaningful than in any other professional league. This is why we care so much about the Broncos.
Each year on the 4th of July, I begin thinking long and hard about the Broncos. I cast my doubts aside and optimistically ponder what the Broncos could become during the upcoming season. My fondest Bronco memories allow me to do so. I’ll always remember watching Alfred Williams dive into the endzone after returning a forced fumble for a touchdown against the Bengals in September of ’96. TD ran all over the Bengals that Sunday, but the Mile High crowd didn’t truly erupt until Alfred floated face first over the goal line. This was the only touchdown he ever scored. He danced and his trademark smile flashed upon the jumbotron. I witnessed Alfred’s moment. I smiled as Alfred smiled and watched as that NFL minute became his.
It’s these smaller moments that make each Broncos season special. Moreover, the significance of these moments never fades. In its time and place, Alfred’s swan dive convinced me that the ’96-’97 Broncos were contenders to win the franchise’s first Super Bowl. That fumble recovery is also what presently allows me to wipe the slate clean and dream on the ’09-’10 season.
Controversy shrouds the Broncos as they prepare for training camp ’09. This was an especially turbulent offseason. But let your favorite aspects of the Broncos’ past make recent events history. Do whatever it takes to smile like Alfred. Hark back to The Drive, visualize all of Rod Smith’s most impressive catches, or reminisce the Elway-TD Super Bowl seasons. Just do yourself a favor and start giving these Broncos a chance because you know you will eventually. It’s in your blood. Plus, an NFL minute is far too precious to sour before it arrives.