John Russell's sports column appears Tuesdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Somebody had better call Anheuser-Busch because we’re going to need all the Clydesdales in Missouri, plus a few draft horses from other states, to pull a bandwagon big enough to carry the Bronco Nation this season.
Not since the 2007 Rockies, not since the 1994 Denver Nuggets and not since John Elway announced he was coming to Denver has a team in Colorado risen to this level of interest. If you want a spot on this wagon, you will need to head to Sports Authority and grab a Peyton Manning jersey — if you can find one.
Manning has played only one regular season game as a Bronco — his second coming on Monday — but it’s hard to imagine this team not being competitive this season or at least interesting to watch. Thank you, Indiana.
The prophets of the sport of football already are talking about Denver winning the AFC West. They are already taking about a Broncos playoff run. A few even have uttered the word “super” in the same sentence as the Broncos, and they're not talking about what the lineman are ordering when they make their way through the drive-thru at Mickey D’s.
It’s a great time to be a Broncos fan, and it’s great that the team is relevant again. But the team’s performance this season is only part of the reason Broncos fans have risen from the grave and are again wearing orange. It is only part of the reason a wave of excitement is rolling across the eastern plains of Colorado and into the Rocky Mountains.
The truth is that most Broncos fans never left their team; they were just hiding in the shadows of the water cooler most Mondays during football season trying to avoid the topic of last Sunday’s game like a ski bum avoids work on a powder day.
The reason this team is so interesting, other than the chance that Manning might return the Broncos to their glory days, has more to do with desperation that destiny.
When Elway retired in 1999, it left the Broncos in a place few fans, at least in my generation, can remember. Gone were the days when the Broncos dominated most every game offensively, and gone were the days when winning a first-round playoff game was taken for granted. Fans were left in a place where they no longer expected the best from their team, but simply hoped for it.
We cheered for disappointments like Brian Griese, Jake Plummer and Kyle Orton. We hoped that Jay Cutler and Tim Tebow would be our saviors or at least the next coming of Elway.
Fans were thrilled last year when Tebow led the Broncos back to the playoffs and somehow defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round. We all celebrated until the following week when the team traveled to New England, where we were served a taste of reality by the Patriots.
As much as we all wanted to see Tebow succeed, we all knew deep down in our hearts that it just wasn’t going to happen. We were desperate to have a winner behind center in Denver, and that had somehow overwhelmed our common sense. We were watching the games through orange-colored glasses. The rest of the sports world told us that Tebow was a fluke, but we all pulled for the kid from the University of Florida to succeed. I’m still pulling for him to prove all the football pundits wrong.
But this time, it’s different.
I’m still not sure where the Manning experiment will end for the Bronco’s nation. I have high hopes that he will be able to carry the team for a while and boost it to a level that we have not known in 12 years. I’m not sure I’m ready to get back on the Broncos bandwagon just yet, but I think I’ll save my spot.
To reach John F. Russell call, 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com