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City of Hype

Great moments in Bronco history--and hysteria.

1982
The Broncos go on strike. The hype-starved Post interviews Susie Hermann, wife of the striking back-up quarterback, who notes that hubby Mark is "cooking, planning meals, cleaning, vacuuming--he even does toilets!"

1983
Kaiser steals John Elway from the Baltimore Colts. The Post launches the infamous Elway Watch, chronicling the crown prince's turn-ons (video games, red meat and potatoes, Petticoat Junction, his girlfriend, Janet) and turn-offs (chick flicks, quiche, Frank Kush). HE JUST WANTS TO BE ORDINARY, a Post headline sighs. "John's not perfect," Elway's dad tells reporters. "He's been known to have a beer, and he chews tobacco."

1984
After trying to buy the Los Angeles Rams and the Dallas Cowboys, Pat Bowlen settles for the Broncos, shelling out a reported $70 million. Heavily favored at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver manages to lose its fourth playoff game in four appearances since 1978, choking off the Super Bowl chatter. Somewhere, Edgar Kaiser is smiling.

1986-87
Sportscaster Jim Celania is fired after a series of gaffes make him unpopular with Bronco management and fans. Bronco talk shows multiply on the airwaves, and as the team heads for the playoffs, the media blitz takes off, with the usual madcap stories about zany fans and their wacky fight songs. "You can't go wrong with anything you put on about the Broncos," notes Mike Nolan, Celania's successor (and predecessor).

The News dusts off the hoary question of how the altitude will affect the visiting New England Patriots. The Post asks the players to rate the fans. Local sportscasters high-five the team on their way off the field after the game. Denver's playoff victory dominates the media the next day. INJURED ELWAY PLAYS FLAWLESSLY, the News declares, making Elway the first flawless quarterback to complete 13 of 32 passes.

The Drive in the AFC championship game in Cleveland sends the headline writers into rapture. ELWAY HELD IN AWE BY THE VANQUISHED, swoons the Post. SUPER! gasps the News. WOW! shrieks the Post, quoting Elway. The News consults a biorhythms analyst and psychic Lou Wright, who both predict the Broncos will win it all this time. In a time of shrinking editorial budgets, the Post pays novelist/fan Leon Uris $10,000 to cover the Super Bowl.

(The Denver media sends a total of 125 people to Pasadena to cover the game, roughly 115 more than they'd send to cover a major earthquake.) All but two of Denver's sportswriters ignore the obvious strengths of the favored New York Giants and pick the Broncos to win; Dick Connor says Denver ought to win by at least twenty points.

Elway shows up in national ads promoting Denver as a thriving center of commerce; 63,426 fans attend a pep rally at Mile High Stadium before the game. A hapless citizen tries to protest saturation Broncos coverage by forming a Non-Fan Club, which disbands after his children receive threatening phone calls.

When the big day arrives, Phil Simms completes a Super Bowl record 22 of 25 passes, and the Broncos flame out, 39-20. A hundred thousand fans attend a post-game parade in downtown Denver. Elway gets a new contract at double his existing salary. The Post publishes a quickie book (That Super Season); so does the News (The Super Season).

1987-88
Local sportscasters are denied seats in the crowded press box for the AFC title rematch between Denver and Cleveland; Mike Nolan is told he can stand in the back. Both papers recap The Drive in numbing detail, and the Post decides that the altitude should have no effect on the Browns. DAWGGONE SUPER!, enthuses the Post, after The Fumble wins the game for the Broncos. The News again consults psychic Lou Wright, who sees the Broncos winning the Super Bowl by a narrow margin. "Another defeat will diminish the lunacy in a depressing way," frets News columnist Jay Mariotti.

Woody Paige, Buddy Martin and eight of ten News sportswriters pick the Broncos to beat Washington. The thundering herd of scribes stampedes to San Diego, but it's getting tougher to freshen up the stories about zany fans, wacky fight songs and Vance Johnson's earring. "The Super Bowl is bringing out the animal in all of us," burps Paige. "What we are doing is covering ourselves. Stop us, someone," pleads Mariotti.

The Redskins set a Super Bowl record for most points in one quarter (35) and butcher the Broncos 42-10. An indeterminate number of fans show up in freezing cold for the post-game losers' parade. Adopting the kind of hushed tone usually reserved for pondering the Holocaust or the nuclear arms race, Mariotti muses, "The pervading concern is whether two Super Bowl losses will devastate the franchise to the point it cannot rebound." Elway gets his own TV show.

1988
The Broncos finish 8-8, out of the playoffs. The Denver media quickly rediscovers the National Western Stock Show.

1989-90
Mariotti predicts the revamped Broncos will finish 8-8 again. The News trades Mariotti to the Post for The Quigmans and two comic strips to be named later. Getting tough, the News reports that Elway is a lousy tipper, gives crummy Halloween candy and likes to have a beer now and then. Between television shows and chocolate-bar endorsements, Elway complains that the press is suffocating him.

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