I am a HUGE Denver Broncos fan. I have bled orange and blue since I was 8 years old. I became a fan watching the 1986 AFC Championship Game, when Denver took on Cleveland. That was the first football game I had ever watched.
Orange was always my favorite color, and in that game, I figured I couldn’t lose. Denver wore orange jerseys and the Browns had orange helmets.
That was the game that brought John Elway to prominence and truly began his Hall of Fame career. Down 7 with a bit more than 5 minutes to go, he drove Denver 98 yards to the tying touchdown. They would win in Overtime and go to the franchise’s football in a decade.
When my Dad told me he’d never seen something like that before, I hitched the wagon of my fandom to Denver. I’ve seen a lot in my years following them: 4 blowout Super Bowl losses and 3 magnificent Super Bowl wins. Two all-time great legends at QB. But one thing I didn’t see: the team play at their home stadium in Denver, affectionately know as Mile High Stadium.
I did see them play twice before, both in Philly. In 1992, Elway was shut out 31-0. My orange jersey was one of only a handful and the drunk fans berated my 13-year-old self as my family and I left. My mom was so angry, she has not been back to the city since.
I saw them again in 2017, the year Philly won their only Super Bowl. Only two years removed from our last title, we had more supporters, but we got blown out again, 55-27.
Last year at work, we made plans for a sales incentive. We were given the opportunity to pick it. My colleague at the time, who is as big a Broncos fan as I am, and we said a Broncos game. Michelle agreed. It was going to take a lot to achieve it.
We kicked that goal’s ass.
The next thing to do was pick a game. The schedule came out in May, and we chose September 25th against San Francisco on national TV on Sunday Night Football. My boss had meetings in nearby Aurora the following week, so we’d go out early for the game.
My colleague left just before the season started, so he didn’t get to go. That just meant more for me.
I still have my child-like sense of wonder and joy, but it was a bit overboard the week leading into the game.
We took trip to Denver Botanical gardens, visited some sweet breweries and had some of the best breakfast we’ve ever had (we’ll discuss that in part two).
Sunday came. After the second round of the best breakfast ever, we got ready for the game. We both wore jerseys – Michelle wore Terrell Davis’s #30 and I rocked my John Elway 75th anniversary jersey from 1994. We made our way to a bar near the stadium. It was great being in a place where 90% of the patrons root for the same team as you. I shared my story with the table next to me – and many I spoke to that day – and was met with warmth, joy and best wishes on a great experience.
I forgot that Empower Field at Mile High Stadium had a unique shape, and my heart skipped a beat as I saw it.
There was plenty of activity in front of the stadium. We took a lot of pics and got swag. We made our way into the stadium and into the team store. I could’ve spent hours in there, but I got a new hat, shirt and other items.
We took some photos near the field, and made our way to our seats. Despite being 10 rows from the top of the stadium, we had great views. I did have two loud, drunk 49ers fans in front of me.
(Quick side note – I always want us to kick San Fran’s ass, because they beat us 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV, and I think Joe Montana is overrated – so I really wanted us to win.)
It didn’t look good early. But the Denver D picked it up and our struggling offense did enough to secure an 11-10 win. It wasn’t pretty, but I finally got to see my team win in person, in their home stadium.
It was one of the best days of my life and and an experience that I will never forget. For that day, I was truly a Mile High.