Posted by: coloradokiwi | February 17, 2009

I would totally be gay for John Elway

In a weirdly convoluted way, I discovered that someone has posted the entirety of Super Bowl XXXII on Youtube.  I watched significant portions of it, something I had not seen literally since the day it was played more than eleven (!) years ago.  This was, and remains, one of the best days of my life.  I know, marriage, birth of child, yadda yadda.  But still, it was THE MOMENT, man.

Allow me to establish some context.  I was basically a Bronco fan in vitro.  My mother is such a rabid fan that it’s extremely inadvisable to watch a game with her, because if they are playing badly, she will start to froth at the mouth, eyes bulging, and splutter a streak of doom that would make a chronic pessimist seem like Sunshine Bear.  I inherited this fandom (largely without the bad attitude, thank goodness).

About the same time my general boyish love of football crested, the Broncos went to their second ever Super Bowl, helmed by my hero, John Elway.  They were expected to be beaten badly, and they were.  Oh well.  But the next year, they went against the Redskins as the favorites, and for most of the first quarter, it looked like my team would win in crushing fashion.  Um, no.  It’s arguably the most dramatic collapse in football history, let alone Super Bowl history.  Then came utter destruction at the hands of the 49ers, which still holds the record for the worst blowout in Super Bowl history (every year that there’s a lopsided battle, I root for a new record holder).

After this, it was hard being a Bronco fan, more exasperating, I’d say, than being a post-Buckner, pre-Schilling Red Sox fan.  Additionally, I personally knew Bronco fans who felt so devastated and betrayed at those crushing ’80s defeats that they became Raiders fans out of spite, like  jilted lovers.  For about a decade, my beloved team vacillated between mediocrity and sorta almost good, but never really did much.  Then came the 1996 season, where it appeared they were once again headed for greatness…except they forgot to play defense against the Jacksonville Jaguars in their first playoff game.  Ouch.  

Even then, however, through thick and thin, there was this gimpy quarterback with very good but never tops efficiency or numbers, who every now and then just willed the impossible into being.  With Elway at the helm, you always felt there was a chance.

That said, it was a disillusioning time, and the loss to Jacksonville cemented a deep seated fear and horror:  Elway would never get his ring, would always be let down somehow, whether by himself or inferior teammates.  It’s a tough thing to contemplate about a person who’s a “hero.”

But the following season went well, and in the playoffs, the Broncos famously tore through their opponents in what came to be dubbed the “Revenge Tour”:  every opponent they played was a team to whom they’d previously lost.  So it was when they ended up facing Green Bay.

Leading up to the game, the media week was excruciating for Broncos fans.  It was all about Favre (still fucking is, I wish he’d retire so the pundits would at least have to give him blow jobs off air).  There was talk about how Green Bay’s huge linemen would chew through the Broncos’ “over-rated” rushing attack.  And of course there were the trends to consider:  Elway was a SB choker, the AFC was in a thirteen year drought, and these guys were of course a mere wild card team.  In short:  rather than a build-up to a match of titans, it was a diagnosis of just how much of a bloodbath it would be. 

On the day, it sure started out bad:  Green Bay drove down for an easy first possession touchdown.  Then the Broncos struck back, and it was a game, and more encouragement would come through a Favre interception and a full on hard hitting game.  But really the turning point was when Elway lead a clock-eating, 92 yard drive, wherein on third and seven in Green Bay territory, Elway scrambled for the first down, famously being helicoptered in the process (the key moment comes in at about 6:09).  It was exhilarating, and it clearly galvanized the team, and it certainly galvanized myself and the folks I was watching the game with:  from this point forward we knew the hex was gone, that they might win this damned thing.

And of course they did, and pandemonium and eventually bonfires and tear gas ensued.

I remember on that particular day, I was watching it in my dorm room with about three friends, and many more down the hall.  Several of us Bronco fans were on the same floor, and when someone suggested we all gather together, we demurred:  best not to jinx it, we thought.  When the deciding play went down, we all poured into the hallways, and the first guy I hugged was an Italian who had followed the Broncos his whole life in Milan.  

Terrell Davis was of course (deservedly) MVP that game, Elway’s numbers being fairly pedestrian.  But his drive, leadership and determination—that dive—and the pure joy of getting that Super Bowl monkey off his back at age 38—it was really something to behold.  

Anyway, here’s the point:  obviously it was just a game.  It was probably one of the best super bowls ever played, but even on that scale it’s not like a particularly profound moment.  But there is this:  sometimes you need to have that feeling of hero worship, even over something as trivial as football.  Shit, maybe it’s a favorite ice-capades dancer or whatever (at least these are real things to invest in, rather than, say, God).  Sometimes you need someone you admire to succeed, you need to feel, even vicariously, the unbridled joy of achieving a life’s dream.  It’s why we like stories with happy endings—hell, it’s why we have stories.

On that day, my hero, my team, my home, were champions, after so much hardship*.  And it felt great.



*In relative terms, obvi.  My God, this isn’t fucking Somalia.


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