For someone growing up in Colorado, attending a Broncos game is a right of passage. But before November 19, only one of my children -- my son, Nick, who's 18 -- had experienced the crazed spectacle firsthand. I managed to score a pair of tickets to a preseason game against Green Bay when he was really young, and he sat alongside my wife and me at the last contest I saw in person -- a 31-20 victory over the New York Giants that took place on an easy-to-remember date, September 10, 2001. However, his appreciation was muted, to say the least, by one simple fact: He doesn't give a crap about sports -- either playing or watching them. Had I not personally seen him emerge from my wife's body, I'd suspect some nefarious baby-swapping had taken place.
In contrast, my fourteen-year-old twin daughters, Lora and Ellie, are budding athletes (they made the freshman basketball squad at Chatfield High School this year) and big sports fans -- particularly Lora, who knows the personalities and particulars of lotsa teams and loves to argue about them. (Pity the students in her American Government class who dared to suggest that the New England Patriots are overrated and/or winning through cheating.) As a result, I had a dilemma on my hands when I unexpectedly got my hands on Westword's tickets for the Monday Night Football contest between the Broncos and the Tennessee Titans. So I passed the buck, asking Lora and Ellie to decide between themselves who'd join me at the game. After a complex and delicate series of negotiations, Lora won -- and she had the most ideal first Broncos experience imaginable.
The evening's start was inauspicious. We didn't begin our drive to the stadium as early as we should have, and when Sixth Avenue clogged up many miles before our exit, I jumped off the highway and took a circuitous and adventurous route to the stadium that had Lora singing the praises of the suburbs. After finally finding our parking lot, we speed-walked through the late-arriving throng outside and inside the venue, with only one mishap along the way -- an already soused woman practically body-checked Lora into a condiment counter. "That's one," she said, as if she expected to find a gaggle of additional alkies lined up between us and our seats. But we arrived at our designated spot just before the opening coin toss, featuring honorary captain Ed McCaffrey, who, coincidentally, had broken his leg during the last (and only) game I'd seen at Invesco Field -- an injury that spelled the beginning of the end of his unlikely career. Talk about full circle.
On the surface, there was nothing special about our seats, in the upper deck of the west stands at approximately the ten-yard line. But the view was fine and the people around us were great -- especially a mismatched pair (one Broncos booster, one Titans aficionado) who offered hilarious running commentary on everything around us. When Channel 4's Ed Greene, on the Jumbotron, ended a game-time forecast by attempting to lead the crowd in an insanely enthusiastic chant of "Go Broncos! Let's be number one!," the Titans half of the pair rightly declared, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever seen," with his cohort adding, "Ed Greene sucks." Then, after Broncos kicker Todd Sauerbrun booted the opening kickoff through the end zone, one of them shouted, "That's the way to do it, you steroid freak!" Still, Lora's favorite remark came after one of several dropped passes by Titans receivers: "You should put a prositute out there, because she'd be a lot better at holding balls than him!"
As for the game, we were expecting the worst -- especially Lora, who understood all the hideous implications of the Broncos' 44-7 annihilation at the paws of the Detroit Lions a few short weeks ago. Under those circumstances, she figured that she could at least root for Titans running back LenDale White, a Chatfield graduate back when coach (and voice of the Broncos) Dave Logan was recruiting for that school instead of his current stamping ground, Mullen. Instead, we got more exciting plays than the Broncos had put together in the season to date: a 48-yard touchdown connection from Jay Cutler to Brandon Stokely; the first punt return for a score in four years courtesy of Glenn Martinez (who'd later fumble, leading to a Titans touch); a 41-yard sprint to the end zone by Brandon Marshall; and a 62-yarder by running back Andre Hall. On the way to the Broncos' 34-20 victory, we hopped up and down more than members of an aerobics class. It was a great workout.
Afterward, the crowd was buzzing with excitement, and Lora buzzed right along with them. (The only time she put on her too-cool face all night was when I snapped the photo that accompanies this item, and I sympathize. I mean, fathers can be pretty geeky.) Granted, the game probably won't cause her to make the Broncos her favorite team: After all, Tom Brady is infinitely hotter than Jay Cutler will ever be. But at last, she got a firsthand taste of Mile High madness, and she doesn't want it to be her last. She told me that when (not if) she gets rich, she's going to buy season tickets to the Nuggets, Avalanche, Rockies and, yes, the Broncos.
Be sure and take Ellie to a game. It's her turn. -- Michael Roberts