It was a long walk to the garbage can and one of the hardest good-byes I have ever had to make. Although the year was 1992, I remember it like it was yesterday.
I had three giant black bags filled to the brim and there was no looking back. The Broncos had just lost to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC championship game, and I was the angriest 9 year old on earth.
It wasn’t fair. Why can’t we win when it matters most? Why can’t John Elway get it done? What did he do to deserve this?
I was one of those freaks who grew up with a football in the crib. I never cared about toys, cartoons, Halloween or anything else that didn’t involve sports. My annual Halloween costume was my latest rendition of my hero, Elway. In fact, every day was Halloween in my house.
Looking back, I am surprised my parents didn’t have me checked for Asperger’s syndrome.
It was that intense.
On that cold January day, I was fed up.
By the time I was 8, I had already witnessed the Broncos lose three consecutive Super Bowls. None of them were pretty, being outscored 136-40 by the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers. I wasn’t alive for the 27-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in 1978, or my black bags might have been packed already.
When Jim Kelly and the Bills poured onto the field to celebrate in ’92, I flew into my bedroom. With tears in my eyes and a few colorful words, I began to tear down my shrine.
My walls, from corner to corner, including the ceiling, were donned with the mugs of Elway, the three amigos and orange crush posters. That day, they all came down.
My parents didn’t know how to console me; heck, I am inconsolable still to this day.
As I packed those Hefty bags full, I cried like a baby. I didn’t really want to throw away my beloved Broncos belongings, but I had to. Nothing had ever hurt me more in my life than that team. I wasn’t going to put up with it anymore.
My aunt had made me a hand-made Denver bed spread, I had the full uniform and helmet, and an entire dresser full of orange and blue. It had to go. It hurt to even look at it.
I was tired of kids at school calling my team the Denver Donkeys and talking about my idol and how he couldn’t win the big one. It actually brought me to blows with a much bigger, older Raiders fan in the schoolyard one day. I still remember my principal being baffled that I would hit someone in the face for talking about the Denver Broncos.
I got a few good licks in for Elway and the gang.
My mom, who was just as crazy as me before the Packers traded her beloved Brett Favre, used to tell me to settle down and always asked aloud, “I don’t know where you get this attitude when it comes to sports?”
Weird, I know, mom?
I take it seriously.
I had to get out of the house that day. I needed some fresh air and to be alone.
The whole time I was gone, I thought about my possessions in that dumpster. I remembered all the great times —The Drive, the fumble, Mile High Magic and all the comebacks.
I had to get my stuff and toughen up! This was my team.
When I got back to the big red dumpster, I was blown away — my stuff was gone!
I really thought I blew it then. That’s what I get for being a fair-weather fan. I was so upset I went straight to my room. When I opened the door, I couldn’t believe my eyes — three full garbage bags on my bed.
My mom taught me the most valuable lesson of my life that day. And to this day, I will never give up on my teams. Ever.
It’s that time of the year again. The Broncos finally got over the hump in 1997 and again in 1998. Those were two of the happiest days of my life. Denver had tacked on yet another blowout loss in the Super Bowl. I was angry, I pitched a fit, may or may not have broken my phone in the fireplace, but I never ran away. I am all in.
I always have been, minus the slip up of ’92. That will never happen again.
Sunday, when we beat Carolina in California, I will call my mom first to tell her how much I love her and to thank her for her loyalty. Like the old saying goes, “mom is always right.”