After suffering marijuana-induced psychosis, the Mad Fanatic got high on the Denver Broncos
Meet Andrew Young, aka the Mad Fanatic, Denver Broncos superfan.
Andrew Young loves the Denver Broncos. A lot. No, seriously, he's a fanatic. Literally. Broncos football is what this guy lives for. He says it saved his life and gave him purpose. After being hospitalized for marijuana-induced psychosis, his life lost much of its color, but orange and blue never faded. Now, you've heard sports songs, and you've seen superfans, but Young, better known as the Mad Fanatic, occupies both of these spaces like no one you've ever seen before.
Oddly, Young's not even from Denver. He's from Connecticut, and he still lives there, in fact. Minor detail. As the Mad Fanatic, Young is soundtracking this historic season, one track at a time. And in case you're wondering, it doesn't sound like it's just a novelty to promote his "other" music. This is his music, he insists. All he writes about is the Denver Broncos. What's more, even if it were merely a gimmick to gain notice, talk about painting yourself into a corner. That sort of typecasting shadow anything else you might do in the future. We caught up with Young to hear more about his story and learn precisely how a kid from the East Coast developed an undying devotion to our beloved Donkeys.
Westword: Tell me how you got so interested in football.
Andrew Young (aka the Mad Fanatic): I'm not even really sure. I started watching football in middle school. I just, I don't know, all of my friends started playing football and stuff like that, and I started watching the Broncos because I liked the new jerseys when they switched to the dark blue jerseys in like 1997. And then they ended up winning the Super Bowl that year, and I fell in love with the team, especially when the "This one's for John" moment happened.
I followed them that whole season though, so it wasn't like I became a fan after they won it. I just happened to become a fan at the perfect time. And then they went and won it again the next year. And then I just started loving football. I mean as soon as I watched football I started loving it, but I guess I got into football from seeing my friends playing Pop Warner and stuff like that.
You're from Connecticut, right?
So even when the Broncos play the Patriots, you're still a Broncos fan?
[Laughs] Absolutely. I'm a fanatic for the Broncos. I can't stand the Patriots.
And you think it's just because of the jerseys they wore that you happened to pick them up?
Yeah, originally. My favorite color's orange, so when I was young I wanted a John Elway jersey. When they got the new ones, the dark ones, I just liked how they looked. I was like, "I want that jersey." And then once I had the jersey, I was like, "I might as well watch them and root for them now." And then I started really following them, and then I, like, loved the team. But my other teams are the Knicks and the Mets, so blue and orange are my colors, for real.
So do you live in Colorado now?
No, I still live in Connecticut. I just went to Denver for the first time a few weeks ago. A bunch of my supporters helped send me out there. I had a Kickstarter campaign, and that failed, and then the people that were trying to support it still did it, and we kinda made it happen in a grassroots kind of way. Somebody was like, "You don't need to get a car. I'll just bring you everywhere you gotta go once you get here." And then somebody just gave me a ticket to a game and an on-field pass. It was crazy.
Wow. You've got some dedicated fans.
Yeah, they're pretty cool.
So it's funny because there's a lot of music about sports teams, but most of it's really kind of gimmicky and pretty much about name dropping. But you obviously have a deeper passion and understanding than the ordinary fan, and I was wondering if you could talk about what makes your fandom different than your everyday fan
Well, first and foremost, I don't know about the everyday fan. I really love my team. Like, I live Denver football when it's not football season -- like I'm following who's doing well in the offseason... and who's dropping balls, and who's showing up out of shape, and who we're drafting. The draft, to me, is the best time of the year.
So I really know the team, the insides and outs. And I like their stories. I like knowing about their backgrounds -- Trindon Holliday almost not going to a D1 school and the coach coming to see another player and... You know what I mean? Especially if you're going to do what I'm going to do, it's better to really know what you're talking about than to just kinda know who the players are and, like, a little bit about them.
And then as far as how my music is a little bit different than most people that just name drop and kinda do the regular stuff; I feel like their approach is different than mine because I was always a singer-songwriter first -- like an R&B singer-songwriter -- so I write songs. I pick a concept and I stick with the concept and I kind of build around that.
But the reason why I even started making music about the Broncos is because I went through this traumatic experience where I had to be hospitalized for a while, like in a psych-ward -- that's where I got the "Mad" part of the Mad Fanatic. I was smoking way too much marijuana, and I just went off the deep end, like I had a mental break.
And after I came out of the hospital, I realized that I can't smoke anymore. It's not good for me. But I used to think that all of my creativity came from me smoking. So, for a while, I was crazy depressed; I didn't want to do anything because I couldn't create, and, I don't know, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, and I was just... I was really almost close to not wanting to live at all.
Then I found that the only thing I still had interest in at all was the Broncos, was being on the Broncos Country forum and just talking about the draft and studying players. And I was like, "I still have a passion for one thing." I didn't even have a passion for my wife at the time, like, I was just so miserable. But I still got a lot of fulfillment from talking with other fans about the Broncos, which may sound silly to some people, but to me it was like my saving grace. It was the only thing that kept me sane.
And then Lil' Wayne did that song, the remix to [Wiz Khalifa's] "Black and Yellow." And then I was like, "Maybe I should make a song about the Broncos," because I was inspired by his song or whatever. And I think a lot of the reason I didn't have creativity wasn't because I wasn't smoking, it was more so because I wasn't doing anything, so I didn't have anything to inspire me to talk about. But the one thing I was doing was still watching football. So I was like, "I got tons of stuff to talk about. I got all these new draft picks to talk about. I'm excited for the season. I think Tebow's gonna get a shot." Blah, blah, blah.
So I went and recorded this song, "Blue and Orange," a remix to that same "Black and Yellow" song, and I put it on YouTube -- the first song I ever put on YouTube -- and it got like 100,000 views, and, like, 27 players retweeted it or tweeted me and said, "Oh my God. This song is sick," like Julius Thomas, Eric Decker, Brian Dawkins, D.J. Williams, like, tons of players started showing me tons of love. The joy I got from that I was like, "Wow!"
I don't know, that was an experience. It kind of trumped doing R&B stuff, and I was like, "You know, I wanna do another song." And then I did another one. And then I did another one. And then I did another one. And I started feeling like... once I heard somebody say that -- Julius Thomas said it first -- "This is my new junk. I'm gonna listen to it all summer." He's gonna listen to it in the locker room.
I'm like, "If a player can listen to my song before they go play, you know what I mean? I could be having some sort of impact on the game." And then I was like, "Wait, what if I get the fans more fired up for the game?" And then they're in the crowd yelling louder, you know what I mean? I started feeling like it mattered. So then I just wanted to do that full-time. So now that's what I do.
Have you been able to form any relationships with any of the players?
Not, like, personal type of relationships. Like when I made "Big Bad Wolfe," Derek Wolfe thanked me on Twitter, and was, like, he's honored by the song. Same thing with the song I made, "Lay the Wood," for Wes Woodyard. Jim Rome played it for him on the Jim Rome Show. And then he tweeted me and followed me on Twitter and stuff like that. But nothing like I don't hang out with them, you know what I mean? I live in Connecticut.
I was trying to get them to be in one of my music videos, a music video I went out to shoot on my first trip called "Orange Crush," which is an anthem about the defense, but the timing didn't work out, so... But I'd like to form relationships with them in the future.
Do you have a favorite player?
You mean all-time?
All-time, I would say John Elway. Definitely, I would say John Elway. And then second, I would say Champ Bailey is up there. I don't know, I like a lot of people. I really like Derek Wolfe. I want to see him be the guy I think he could be. I see J.J. Watt potential in him. And being from Connecticut, when I saw him play UConn, he had like five tackles for a loss, two-and-a-half sacks. It was like, "Who is this guy?"
And I was the main one on the Broncos forum, like, way before anyone, I was like, "If we come out of this draft with Derek Wolfe, I'll be happy with this draft. This dude is crazy." And I started telling everybody about him. Then when we drafted him, I was like, "We won." But we still got some work to do.
But I like everyone. I like Woodyard a lot. I like Trindon Holliday. I like Chris Harris. I like players that play with that kinda chip on their shoulder, that get overlooked, the undrafted guys. Man, who do you like?
Umm... That's a good question. My favorite would probably be Demaryius Thomas because he's a superfreak athlete.
Oh, I love him. I call him Opthomas Prime.
Yeah, I heard that song. That was great. And probably right now my other favorite would be Julius Thomas because he's on my fantasy team.
[Laughs] Yeah, he's on mine, too, and I got him in the seventh round.
Yeah, I think I got him in the ninth round or something. But, yeah, it's always good when you feel like you get a jump on knowing what's gonna happen before it actually happens.
So do you think... Obviously you probably think the Broncos are going to win the Super Bowl.
I do. I think we could go 19-0. I said that before the season started. The only hiccup... I kind of hesitated for a second, I said, "Maybe the loss of Von will be more than I expect." And then right after game one, I was like, "Nevermind. We're still going 19-0."
And I could see it happen. I think we have some tests; I think beating San Diego twice is going to be hard, same thing with Kansas City. New England's always tough. We definitely have the talent to do it, but you never know. We could always have a bad game or whatever, but I think we really could do it. If anybody could do it, it's this team because this offense is unprecedented. It's better than the '07 Pats. I don't think people realize that.
Everybody's talking about this last game, like, "Oh, you didn't cover the spread. 35-19" I'm like, "Well, the D only gave up 12 after giving up 50. We didn't have Woodyard or Von. We downed it in the end. We fumbled at, like, the four-yard line when we were driving." I'm like, "That's fourteen more points." So I don't really know if it was that bad of a game as people make it seem like.
And I noticed a lot of times, too [that] there were drops on first down, like with Knowshon dropping the ball or Demaryius. It totally messes up our drive. Our drive is, like, meticulous. You have to execute every single play, and we're like a flawless team. But those little drops and stuff throw us off.
Yeah, I definitely think if Champ and Von get our pass defense back on track, then we have a shot to go undefeated. I definitely think that's the big weakness of our team that could possibly hurt us.
I think the scariest thing about us winning the Super Bowl is if we have to play Kansas City three times. I'd hate playing a team three times, especially if we win the first two, you know what I mean? It's so hard to beat a team three times in the NFL, especially a well-coached team with a lot of game tape on how you attack their team. That's a daunting task right there. But I still think we'll do it. This year, we will finish the job because last year it was on us to win.
Hopefully we'll get the division title, and then they'll lose in the first round so we won't have to play them.
Yeah, that'd be nice.
Since you're so well versed in the Broncos, are there any roster moves that you'd like to see made.
Um, you mean like this year or next year?
This year? No. Not at all. I like everything we're doing right now. I mean, I like the move we actually made [on Tuesday] signing T.K. [Tavarres King] to the active roster. I thought that was a good long-term move because I don't know if we're going to sign Eric Decker -- re-sign him. So I like the keeping Tavarres King move. But other than that, I don't know. Do you think there's anything we need to be doing different?
No, but I'm not as hardcore of a fan as your are. I mean, I'm like a Madden fan, so I know all the players, and I watch all the games, but I don't know the scouting reports.
Yeah, I wouldn't change anything about this team, offensively and defensively. Even though, defensively, it looks a little suspect... Von Miller's a big difference. Like when you add him into that mix, it changes everything. I think Derek Wolfe stops seeing double-teams.
I would like to see Derek Wolfe get off the snap just a little bit quicker. I don't know if the neck injury made him a little bit hesitant or what. I just don't see that same fire I used to see in him. It seemed like he was going 110 percent all the time, and since the neck injury, it seems like, I don't know, a little different.
But then again, like I said, if he doesn't have Von Miller in there, it could be just getting too many double-teams and stuff like that. But I really like this team, I really do. I think John Elway is a genius. I think he hired the right guys to get some good personnel there.
I would have liked to see Eddie Royal stick around. I really liked Eddie Royal. He could have been our Wes Welker. Eddie Royal got kind of screwed; he didn't get an opportunity to play with Peyton, and he could have been great with Peyton. But I'll take Wes Welker all day.
So for Unfinished Business, which is your soundtrack for the season, you release a track prior to each game. Why did you decide to go about it like that?
Because I feel like the players approach it like that. I look at it like being a fan, the way I'm trying to be a fan, trying to have an impact, you don't look ahead to the next game until you finish this game. And you're not looking back on the other games once that game is over, so it's like, for me, as soon as that game ends, I'm posting a video for the next one. And this week I'm all about that game until we win it and then onto the next one.
So you haven't finished the future games yet?
Yes and no. A couple of them are done. A couple of them, the concepts are kinda done, you know what I mean? I mean, with production and having to shoot videos and record and mix and master and stuff like that, you kinda gotta be a little ahead of the curve. But I'm saying I don't want to put it out until it's like that time for that game.
My Mile High Music album, that's Denver Broncos history, in general, and, like, "Sundays were MADE for Football," and "The Drive" is one of the songs, and it's different. It's not made to fire you up for that specific game. Unifinished Business was made because I felt like maybe I didn't do enough to try to impact the kinetic energy in the stadium.
I want to do all I can to fire the fans up that are both watching on the T.V., at the game, hopefully players, if any of them hear it; I want to get people fired up for that game, so what better way to get people fired up for that game than to make a song about that game. So that's why I did it like that, and then I made it free because I want everybody to hear it, and then if people want to donate, they can donate to just support the movement. But I'm not gonna charge for it either. I want whoever wants to hear it to be able to hear it, download it and share it, or whatever.
How long do you anticipate focusing on the Broncos for your music? Do you think you'll stay...
Forever. Yeah. That's the other thing that makes me a lot different than most of these people that make "sports music," and why their music is kind of wack; they don't live and breathe their team. They're musicians, but they're making a sports song to try to get more fans to listen to their "real" music. My real music is my sports songs, you know what I'm saying? I think that's the difference.
This is what I do. I did a mixtape, I did an album and now I'm doing a soundtrack, and I could just keep doing it. I feel like I'm never going to run out of material. It's fun to me; I feel like I always have a new something to talk about. There's new players that do different things. There's trades that happen. There's new games, new storylines for each game. So I'm just going to talk about the Broncos, and I don't care if everybody in the world hates it but Broncos fans. I make music for us.
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