Feb 042016

Faith, According to Football

I am not a religious man. There are many reasons, many, but one of them is that it is so hard to have faith in something you can never see, even though you have so much evidence that it doesn’t exist at all.

And yet, I am a Denver Broncos fan.

You may not see the dichotomy in these two statements. Football* is real and demonstrable and I can record it on my DVR, whereas God may exist or may not but is certainly not something you can schedule for Sunday at 4:00PM Eastern time.

But I did not say I was a football fan. I said I was a Denver Broncos fan. Therein lies the difference; one must have faith and hope far beyond the norm when one is a Denver Broncos fan. Far beyond.

* I am using the word “football” throughout this article even though I know some of you are not in the US and believe that the word “football” actually means “soccer”. This is the term I am accustomed to using when referencing this particular sport, and I doubt I am really causing any genuine confusion. You all know what I mean.

No one has earned the right to appear in more Super Bowls than the Denver Broncos. No one has lost more Super Bowls than the Denver Broncos. No one has been destroyed as thoroughly and humiliated as badly the Denver Broncos.

Over and over and over. The Denver Broncos go to the Super Bowl and lose, embarrassingly. It is what they do.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. And sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, it isn’t that way. Sometimes the Broncos win! But not usually. And when they lose, which is the most common result, you set it aside, forgive them, and ready yourself to do it all again next year.

And that is the essence of the faith one must have to be a Broncos fan. You have to want them to go to the Super Bowl again, even though you know it will most likely end badly. You have to want them to go, genuinely, because you cannot win if you do not play. And then, when they do make it in, you have to hope for a win. You have to know they can win; that defeat is not inevitable; that this could be the year, again, even though it almost certainly isn’t. You have to want all that.

Suffering, and faith, and hope, and punishment, and love, and humility, and pain, and unconditional love, and forgiveness. See? That sounds like religion, doesn’t it?

The Five Worst Super Bowls, Ranked By Hideousness

All that most of you will know of the pageant of (mostly) misery that is the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl is the recent defeat by the Seattle Seahawks. But that only begins to tell the tale; in fact, that is not even in the top three worst Super Bowl beatings in Broncos history.

#5 Super Bowl XXI versus the New York Giants

A very young John Elway led the Broncos to a halftime lead of 10-9 before the Giants pulled away and made it a rout. Watching the game, it was obvious from the beginning that the Giants were a better team, much better, with better receivers and better offensive and defensive lines and a much better defense. But Elway kept the Broncos in the game (for most of it) through sheer talent and will, elevating the play of those around him. The Broncos lost, badly, but didn’t look horrible at all. Elway actually seemed pretty heroic. Final score: 39-20

#4 Super Bowl XLVIII versus the Seattle Seahawks

Peyton Manning, league MVP and future Hall of Famer, led the most prolific offense in NFL history to the Super Bowl for his third appearance, and first as a Bronco. Denver scored more points and earned more yards than anyone had, ever, but had a defense that was only “okay”. The team came out in the Super Bowl looking completely unprepared, as if they hadn’t expected cold weather (in New Jersey!) or crowd noise, giving up a safety on an errant snap on the very first play. And that was how the entire game went; the record-setting offense unable to produce anything except punts and turnovers. The defense battled valiantly for the first two quarters, but in the absence of any offense at all it crumbled and the game was over by halftime. A thorough spanking, made worse by the preening in-your-face strut of the Seahawks, a team that showed tremendous talent but little sportsmanship. Final score: 43-8

#3 Super Bowl XXII versus the Washington Redskins

Earning their second Super Bowl in a row, the Broncos and John Elway were favored to win. The first quarter went according to expectations as the Broncos jump out to a 10-0 lead. But the 1987 Broncos had a weakness; their defense was built on finesse, speed and athleticism instead of size and strength. The Redskins had offensive linemen so huge they were named the Hogs. In the second quarter, the Redskins simply overpowered the Broncos, running the exact same play over and over. Counter Trey Right, it is a simple play, essentially feinting one direction and then running right up the middle. The Redskins Counter Trey-d themselves into five consecutive touchdowns (in one quarter!) and no amount of screaming at the TV seemed to alert the Broncos to the fact that the same play would be coming. Again. Final score: 35-10

#2 Super Bowl XII versus the Dallas Cowboys

The Orange Miracle season. In 1977 the Broncos, in only their second winning season ever, defeated their arch-rival Oakland twice, ignited the entire city, and made the Super Bowl for the first time ever. And then fell on their faces in spectacular fashion, giving up eight turnovers! Eight! Our quarterback, Craig Morton, completed only four passes for 39 yards accompanied by four interceptions. He literally threw to the Cowboys more effectively than he did for the Broncos. Eight turnovers! Final score: 27-10, but the game was nowhere near as close as the score makes it seem.

#1 Super Bowl XXIV versus the San Francisco 49ers

The worst and most nauseating Super Bowl defeat in the history of the Denver Broncos is also the worst defeat by any team, ever. Record-setting awfulness, the Broncos never had a chance, facing one of the all-time greatest teams with the same suspect defense as everyone already knew how to beat from the previous Super Bowl defeats. Many people in Denver didn’t even want the Broncos in the Super Bowl again, not so soon after XXI and XXII, and those people were right. This is the game that was so awful that the Broncos became a national laughingstock: “Speed Limit 55, Denver 10” was only one of the many, many things we Bronco fans had to live with for the next decade. Oh, and this:



Why I think the Broncos will win

Partly I believe the Broncos will win because I have to, it is written into my DNA. But I have actual reasons too:

Reason #1: Our offense. Carolina has a good defense. We have a bad offense. But our offense is always about the same amount of bad no matter who we are playing. We won’t run up the score against the Panthers, but we never do. We stumble and fumble and sometimes our defense scores more than our offense. But we end up with points anyway. Not a ton of points, but enough. And we will again Sunday.

Reason #2: Our defense. Carolina has a great offense. Not good, great! But it is all Cam Newton. Their best receiver is Greg Olsen, a veteran tight end, who scared no one in the first nine years of his career; Cam Newton is what makes Olsen a threat. The Panthers have an uninspiring running game, apart from Cam Newton. See? It is all Cam Newton, all the time. And he is pretty amazing. But he is only one guy. Meanwhile, the Broncos bring the best defense in the league to the Super Bowl for the first time. No more finesse, no more bend-but-don’t-break, the Broncos snarl and roar and rip apart opposing offensive lines. They stop the run, and have a backfield that can cover the way that water covers Michael Phelps. If we can slow down Cam Newton they have nothing else left. And we can. We will.

Reason #3: Kismet. It all seems so familiar. I’ve seen teams before that have a good-but-not great defense, and an offense that is led by a single, unstoppable quarterback. A quarterback so good, he makes everyone around him better. He elevates the play of the whole team. I’ve seen this book, I’ve read it cover to cover, and it ends in Super Bowl defeat! Is Cam Newton better now than a young John Elway was back then? Is Carolina’s defense really better now than Denver’s was back then? John Elway was never able to win a Super Bowl by himself. He didn’t win until he had a whole team that was as good as he was.

Can Cam Newton win all by himself?

I don’t think so. I think Carolina has had a magical season, and I think that Cam Newton is a magical quarterback, and I think that all of that is just good enough to get you beaten in the Super Bowl.

Or at least, so history tells us.



Elway helicopters his way to a crucial first down

Elway helicopters his way to a crucial first down while winning Super Bowl XXXII

It is okay with me now, all those years of misery, because eventually Denver won the Super Bowl. And not just once, but twice! In a row! Just that thing, or really, those two things, changed everything!

It used to be that I would try to really enjoy the AFC Championship game and sort of treat it like a personal Super Bowl, and then sort of pretend that the real Super Bowl was just a skills display like the Pro Bowl. I mean, I knew better, but the Super Bowl was dead to me. I had to make whatever peace I could with that fact.

Because the Super Bowl was dead to me, that two week period leading up to the Super Bowl was just pure hell, even when the Broncos were not playing. Two weeks straight of comprehensive news. Replays of all the old (painful) Super Bowls. Prognostications and analysis and predictions and silly bets where one state governor bets a case of his state’s most famous food (say steak) against the other governor’s case of (say lobster). Silliness. Parties. And all of it hurt because the Super Bowl was dead to me. A place of pain. Two weeks of the calendar just gone, every year.

I would watch the game, had to right? I live in America. But it hurt, a constant dull pain no matter how exciting the game was (or often, wasn’t). Every now and then they’d bring up a graphic of the biggest defeat in Super Bowl history, or the most turnovers, or the least yards, or whatever, and there would be my Broncos and the dull pain would erupt into searing agony. Again.

But no more. At last we won. No more are we lumped in with the winless. We are winners! Even if not all that often. Total redemption. Those two victories cemented Elway’s legacy as one of the greatest ever, but more important to me personally, it gave me the Super Bowl back.



But I digress. This is not about Super Bowls past, but rather about Super Bowl present, Super Bowl 50, the game’s golden anniversary. And the Broncos are going to win.

Hey, don’t look at me like that. The word “fan” comes from the word “fanatic”. What did you expect? Logic?

No. It is all about faith.




Go! Broncos!

This is the year.

Final score? Denver 27 Carolina 19

🙂 😀 🙂



p.s. You are seriously running out of time to vote for the 2015 GAMEY Awards!


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  11 Responses to “Faith, According to Football”

Comments (11)
  1. I am afraid the Broncos will get crushed. I wish the Pats had made it because it would have been charged with all the Patriot hate/Northeast US against the rest. This one seems lackluster at best, and Manning wasn’t the agent to get the Broncos there (like he was against the Seahawks). So, meh.

    The two redemptions for Broncos is 1) the lovely story about the Broncos player whose mom recently saw his first game. That was really moving. I am rooting for him. 2) that Denver is one of the better cities in the USA–people bicycle and are healthy.

  2. I find your lack of faith disturbing

  3. I don’t know much about any of the flavours of football, but it doesn’t stop the faith.

  4. Rooting for the underdog is noble, but have faith in a winner.

    Carolina 33, Denver 15.

  5. I’m just going to say, as a seahawks fan (a moderate one) and as a life long resident of Seattle, to have a sports team win a championship was blissfully euphoric. You’ll have to forgive our jubilant celebration at the expense of your humiliation – it wasn’t personal. As far as I know there is no widespread hate for either the broncos or manning out here.

    and i think our 2 super bowl losses are worse than the Bronco’s worse 😉

    • The Seahawks fans are great! No complaints there. It was the team.

      Plus you all are kind of our long lost cousin fans. We remember you from the AFC West.

      As for your losses, at least one was a remarkably close game. No shame in losing when one competes as well as that.

  6. I heard the Broncos got a new shortstop this year.

  7. Been a Bronco’s fan since Craig Morton was the QB and Rick Upchurch was returning kicks. I had my heart ripped out by Doug Williams when we lost to the Redskins…. It felt like getting party wiped in Durks got a secret when running for favor at level 20….just …..I have no words…*sigh*

    Now as a resident of the Carolinas, and having had to listen to how great the Panthers are all year… (and I do reluctantly agree they are a good team) it would sure be nice if Manning could just have the game of his life and go out a winner walking off the field into the sunset like Elway did a hero. It would make coming into work on Monday a whole lot easier too. It’s getting unbearable around here with Clemson having had the year they did…but I digress.

    As a side note, it sure is refreshing to see the positive side of the NFL. Both teams have tons of players who give back to the community, and who I wouldn’t mind pointing at and telling my son…”now that is how you behave when people are looking up to you.” It’s always dangerous putting men on pedestals, but we’re prone to do it anyway, and too often of late the NFL has had negative examples rather than positive.

    Just seeing the smiles on the kiddo’s faces when Cam or one of the other Panthers hand them a ball is wonderful. Those kids will be talking about that moment 40 years from now when they take their kids to see an NFL game. Great publicity, but from what I hear around this area its genuine. Cam has worked at getting kids out of bad situations and into football and college, helping them overcome a lot.

    I’d love to see the Bronco’s win as a Bronco fan, but if the Panthers do win, it won’t be nearly as bad as losing to some other teams. It should be a fun game to watch. Defensive games usually are, and these two defenses are two of the best to meet in quite a while. I might even have to stop running DDO quests long enough to seriously watch…or maybe I’ll just play on the laptop in front of the bigscreen 🙂


  8. Try being a Browns fan, or a fan of anything from Cleveland. 3 of your Super Bowl losses came at the expense of my Browns in the AFC Championship games. The Drive and The Fumble being two of those. In this town we get decent teams but strange things happen and we never win the championship. I have been on this planet for 48 years and I have 0 Super Bowl appearances, 2 World Series losses and 2 NBA Finals losses. My father passed away 3 years ago and that is one of my greatest regrets, that we never celebrated a championship together. All I had was his stories about the great Browns teams from 1946 on and how awesome the 1964 win over Baltimore was, and how much fun it was in 1948, the last time the Indians won the World Series.

    That being said, I was also rooting for the Broncos. Not that I hate Carolina, but I have a lot of respect for Peyton Manning.


    • There is no question that Browns fans are the most beleaguered fans in the world. I feel for you dude, seriously.

      Not that I want to give back any of those AFC Championships. But still.

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