We all call ourselves the biggest Broncos fan ever. I am not going to say that I am or that anyone in these next few paragraphs is. But I am going to tell you why this next season is extremely important to me on a personal level.
Just as many of you reading this were, I was born a Broncos fan. The first game I can vividly remember watching was on January 15, 1978, Super Bowl XII. I had no idea why my father & grandfather were so into this game. But as I sat down and watched, I heard certain words that a child should never hear. As you know, we lost that Super Bowl.
The next few years, my father & I listened to Broncos games on the radio as we did not have television in the small Southwestern mountain resort of Stoner, CO. There was nothing quite like the voice of Bob Martin & Larry Zimmer describing a blitz by Tom Jackson, an amazing run stuff by Randy Grandishar or an incredible interception by Louis Wright. We would eventually move to Northern Colorado. This was great as not only would we be able to finally watch the Broncos on TV, but the best part is we would also be able to watch training camp in Greeley. Who would have ever thought there would be anything great about Greeley, CO?
But in 1983, Greeley was beyond great. The Broncos pulled off the greatest heist in sports history since the Yankees stole Babe Ruth from the Red Sox. We got The Duke, aka John Elway, for Chris Hinton, Mark Hermann & Ron Solt. We all know how that worked out. Over the next 16 years, we were given some of the most entertaining football imaginable.
However, it wasn’t just John Elway that brought my father, grandfather & I close together. It was a linebacker from Minnesota taken with the 310th pick of the 12th round of the 1983 draft. Karl Mecklenburg was and still is my grandfather’s favorite Broncos player ever. Whenever a player misses a tackle, he always says “Meck wouldn’t have missed that tackle” and he’s probably right.
The three of us, along with the rest of Broncos Country suffered through 3 more Super Bowl loses. My father would call my grandfather after every loss. Try to make sense of it and then use the line so many Cubs fans have used for the past century: There’s always next year.
Finally, on the night of January 25, 1998, we no longer had to say those four horrible words, but instead we hear these four magical words: THIS ONES FOR JOHN!!! I actually never heard Mr. Bowlen say that as I was outside the bar calling my father & grandfather. We cried. No words were spoken for about 5 minutes. Then my grandfather said… Let’s do this again next year. And we did.
A week ago, I got a call from my mother. My grandfather had suffered a stroke as well as a heart attack.
Thankfully, it wasn’t too serious, but serious enough for me to reflect and write this. I know my grandfather is at the end of long and wonderful life. Once he got home from his brief hospital stay, I gave him a call and said these words: “You can’t be messing around. You need to stick around for one more Broncos Super Bowl victory.” He replied with these four words: “There’s always next year.”
And that’s why this next Broncos season is very important to me personally, it may be the last my grandfather will be able to be around for.