Recently mentioned in the podcast and I just noticed Michael Roberts over at Westword wrote about this awhile back. But here it is anyway:
Forgive me for being late to the party, but I just finished watching a fine bit of cinema entitled Hot Tub Time Machine. It’s a moderately funny paean to the 80’s that involves a magic Jacuzzi. The film tinkers with the notion of time being flexible and changeable all folded in to a stew of potty humor. This works for the characters in the film, but it spells out a bleak future for none other than the Denver Broncos.
The history altering shenanigans employed in Hot Tub Time Machine are the direct result of the characters modifying their actions in the past for a better future result. I won’t ruin the plot of Hot Tub Time Machine for you but you can probably figure it out for yourself: Some friends party down in a hot tub and magically end up in 1986 - able to relive and re-craft their pathetic lives into something more substantial. There’s a lot of homoerotic humor, some drugs get eaten and the girl from Party Down appears out of nowhere, getting John Cusack to fall for her just before she gets on Poison’s tour bus.
How does this relate to the Denver Broncos? At one point, one of the characters uses his knowledge of the future to win some money. One of those future events is “The Drive” which happened during the AFC title game featuring your Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns. Hot Tub Time Machine takes place in 1986 but this particular Bronco game happened on January 11th 1987. Also the game took place during the day but the scene is at night. An oversight maybe, but considering the character makes a bet claiming Denver quarterback John Elway will make a miraculous TD throw with 37 seconds remaining on the clock (accurate) it’s strange a classy piece of cinema would screw this up. But it is a film about a time traveling hot tub after all.
The bet is made and homoerotic hanky panky is afoot. At the crucial moment where Elway makes the fabled strike to Mark Jackson to tie the game, a squirrel runs onto the field and prevents what is presumably Jackson (even though the uniforms are not even close to Denver’s 80’s garb) from making the grab. Our Hot Tubbers are thwarted and an uncomfortable scene where a man must blow another man in front of a dozen strangers unfolds.
The characters go on to live lives of opulence because one of them remains in the past. But while we’re given the recap of how their sad lives are better because of the hot tub, there’s no mention of what happened to the Denver Broncos. Besides the existential and quantum questions this film raises, only one thing mattered to me: What happens to the Denver’s most popular team in the following years?
The Broncos were always perennial playoff participants and even though there were a string of Super Bowl losses following the events portrayed in the movie, Denver became an NFL dynasty – winning two championships a mere ten years later.
If the events of Hot Tub Time Machine were allowed to play out, the Cleveland Browns would have met the New York Giants in SuperBowl XXI. I’m fairly certain they would have met the same fate the Broncos did (loss) but the balance of power in the AFC might have been changed forever. The possibilities spiral off in every imaginable direction and just like good time travel fiction, we’ll never know what could happen. But if Denver started losing those high profile games, what would John Elway’s future have been in Denver? Would he have stuck around as long as he did to win two Super Bowls in the late 90’s? Hot Tub Time Machine, through a thick sheen of dick jokes would like you to think about it.
My guess is that in this alternate reality the makers of Hot Tub Time Machine have so cleverly hidden in their film, would be catastrophic for the Denver sports fan. If Elway doesn’t complete that career defining drive in Cleveland, the Broncos never get close to the same amount of Super Bowl appearances and eventual victories. Elway founded his legend on this game and without it there’s no telling how he’d be perceived today.
If the Broncos- inarguably the region’s most popular sports team- don’t rise to prominence in the late 80’s, there is no reason for Major League Baseball to come knocking in the early 90’s. Without big league baseball and a power house NFL team, why on earth would cash strapped Canadians feel obliged to sell us the Stanley Cup ready Quebec Nordiques? The Nuggets would have been unaffected because they sucked regardless of time tinkering.
The makers of Hot Tub Time Machine never stopped to consider how their hijinks will impact the Denver sports landscape. One of the characters may have gone back and invented Google and sang for Motley Crue and not considered the consequences, but the devastation those actions would have inflicted on the Denver sports scene would have been tragic.
But again, it is a movie about a time traveling hot tub so let’s not get too excited.