I'm not generally in favor of so-called NFL "legacy" games, in which teams are required to wear their hideous and humiliating uniforms of yore and the fans are barraged with waves of schlock and nostalgia: old geezers from golden-age squads out on the field to get special plaques, commemorative programs, clips of the '82 Blizzard Bowl, and so on. It all seems like yet another layer of lame marketing in an already corporately overloaded spectacle.
But the Broncos-Patriots game, celebrating fifty years of AFL rivalry, was a different experience. Especially if you caught the game from the stands instead of on the tube.
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The marketing mavens of Mile High -- sorry, Invesco -- went out of their way to try to give the game the right 1960s-era atmosphere. The scoreboards flashed the action in black and white much of the time, the PA system blared top 40 hits from decades ago (including an overdose of Steppenwolf), the cheerleaders were all pony-tailed ... you get the idea. It was goofy, but somehow the time warping worked its juju on the field.
This was an AFL game, pure and simple. The Broncos (and many of the fans) showed up in yellow jerseys and those vertically striped socks. They looked like angry bees, and were promptly swatted around most of the first quarter. The Patriots looked -- well, patriotic, although nothing could be stupider than the emblem on their helmet, that guy in the tri-cornered hat and um, frilly sleeves, trying to look fierce in a three-point stance. Not even the Broncos mascot of the era, a big-jawed cartoon character on a bucking horse, looks that lame.
The game was as weird as the decoupage. Josh McDaniels started out with some wildcat-inspired razzle-dazzle that's actually as old as -- well, all those trick plays of the Phipps era. The ball took funny bounces and deflections. The Broncos moved up and down the field despite red-zone problems and fluttery passes that should have been picked off. The defense shut the Patriots down again and again, only to be undone by special-teams follies. It was as if all the Bronco evolution of the Late Shanahan Era -- nurturing brilliant but erratic, rocket-armed QBs and superstar receivers and West Coast offense and speedy but undersized linemen and all that -- had evaporated and we were back in the Stone Age. And, of course, it all ended up in heart-pounding, gut-sucking overtime.
You kind of hope the whole season won't be quite so peculiar. But 5-0 is not something to scoff at. If this be a retrofit, make the most of it.