It’s no secret, I’m a football fan. I dress in my team colors. I know all the game day chants. I stomp my feet. I cheer. I boo. I hang fan posters in my apartment window and in my work cube. I watch away games at the bar with such passion that people stare at the little girl with the blue boots who just hit her fist into the table. I stand in 2/feels like -6 degree weather in the middle of January with 76,000 other fans to watch my team go into two overtime quarters only to lose their chance for the Super Bowl. Again.
Today, my calves are sore from the five hours I spent jumping up and down in excitement/outrage/attempt to keep warm at the game yesterday. My voice is hoarse. I guarantee I’ll be getting sick for the third time this season. I’m only now starting to get the feeling back in my big toe (what up, frost bite). I’m completely exhausted. But I’d do it all over again. I’m a football fan.
I became a fan because of my dad. He used to joke that my first words were “dirty cowboys” and then “dirty raiders.” I started going to games at Mile High Stadium when I was probably five or six. My dad used to buy me cotton candy and that’s about all I remember. When the Broncos went to the Super Bowl two years in a row in the late nineties, we held parties at our house. I ate lots of treats, painted my face, and cheered when everybody else did, but that’s about all I remember. I don’t know exactly when it happened or why, but at some point in the years to follow, it stopped being about the food or the face paint. I started asking questions, learning the rules, and actually watching the game. At some point, it started just being about me, my dad, and the 11 orange & blue guys on the field.
I stayed a fan because of the Denver Broncos. From watching the players warm up to the final whistle, I love it all. I love the fans. I love the bad music they play. I love the player’s victory dances. I love the mile high salute. I love yelling “in-com-plete” when the visiting team misses a pass. I love high-fiving strangers. I love heckling and trash talking and using my sailor mouth. I love watching Champ Bailey snab interceptions and Von Miller take QBs to the ground. I loved seeing Shannon Sharpe, Ed McCaffery and my first love, main man #30 Terrell Davis.
For all of the non-fans, I wish I could explain why. I have friends who just don’t get it. They see it as a bunch of grown men wearing tight pants tackling each other. And then I say, “yeah, what’s the problem?” I mean really, have you seen Eric Decker? But I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s a lack of understanding (and a dislike of cotton candy). Some people just aren’t competitive. Some people didn’t get bred into the game at age 6 sharing memories with their dad. And that’s ok.
What I do know is when you have it, it’s for life.
After my dad died, going to games was rough. I’ve cried on the Broncos commuter bus, watching the fly over during the National Anthem, and leaving after a great win that he would have loved. We used to have a secret hand shake to celebrate after a score. I’ve seen my mom struggle, and my sister could barely sit through a game the first season without him. She actually met a hall-of-famer in the line at will call her first game without Dad. They started talking and he complimented her 1987 Broncos Super Bowl sweatshirt. She said her dad gave it to her. He asked if they were going to watch the game together and she lost it. He gave her a hug and she cried into the shoulder of a Denver Broncos player. Our dad would have been so jealous.
It’s still hard without him and I’m not saying I don’t cry, but when we go to the stadium I’m thankful that I get to think of my dad every time. I have to because that’s the way we get by. I chose to remember. He’s now part of my mile high magic.
So here we are, another season over and another disappointment. The Broncos were supposed to be the best team in the NFL. This was supposed to be their year to win it all. How’s Champ Bailey supposed to retire without a Super Bowl ring? But yet again, it didn’t happen.
I wanted that win more than anything. I want to be bitter. I want to blame coach John Fox for his un-ballsy pansy plays. I want to send a horse head to the ref’s house for some of those bad calls (you know, godfather style). I want to be angry at the team because they were outplayed, they made mistakes, they lost that game. But I can’t. Yes I feel it all, but when I really think about it, I get a smile on my face. When I really think about it, all I can think is what a ride, here’s to a great season, damn that was too. much. fun. I’m a football fan.
As we enter the long, cold haul that is winter without football, all I can do is hang up my jersey and impatiently wait for next season.
For ever and always, for me and for my dad, Go Broncos!