I was carried into my first Broncos game. My father was part of a group of business leaders who helped start the team. He was involved from the start, long before the new league of AFL football was certain to make it. We had Broncos tickets since day one, in 1960. I’m told I was dressed in a billion winter layers for cold games, until I looked as bloated as a miniature sumo wrestler. My grandparents sat a few rows behind us, and we knew everyone around us. I sat on a knee, passed up and down the row when adults needed a break.
It was a different time. The Broncos dressed in orange and brown, and a riding cowboy was the logo. We sat on metal bleachers at Bear Stadium (named for the Denver Bears Baseball club), painted with seat numbers. The metal was unbearable to touch in the sun and an icy, heat-magnet in the cold. No cup holders. No Dominos pizza stands or chicken wraps. No clear gallon-sized bags for security. A hot dog or popcorn was a great treat. When we ate, we more often carried sandwiches into the game in a blanket sided bag, with a matching metal thermos of coffee and seat pads. A transistor radio was often clutched to my dad’s ear, so he could listen to Bob Martin broadcast the game.
The Broncos were horrible then, but they were our team. Win, lose, or draw, even “a half a loaf.” Players were local stars, but paid moderately. Many had other jobs. The stands were often partially empty. My dad tells the story of attending the first Super Bowl, at the LA Colosseum, January 15, 1967. He was a fan, but also representing the Broncos American Football Club, with a pocket full of unsold tickets to peddle. People quipped, “Who would pay to see the two leagues compete?” He sat on the 50-yard line because there were open tickets there. Next to some guy named Weeb Ewbank, coach of the Jets. The ticket price was $12. Green Bay killed Kansas City.
Sunday, I’ll probably pay the $14 for a Bud Light. My bus to the stadium, almost the only way in, costs $51. Seats at the 50 cost $10,000, I’m told. Even my seat, so far from the painted grass, is more than my first car, a battered Mustang, cost in 1976. It’s face price is $1500. It is CRAZY. Makes my stomach upset. Times change, I guess. The NFL is big, and Super Bowl signs are everywhere you wander. After Thanksgiving Day, more food is consumed on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the American year. Joining in, I ate a hotdog from a cart. Just because I could.
Chaperoned by the Statue of Liberty, today we toured New York, and enjoyed the atmosphere. We visited Super Bowl Blvd, a transformed Times Square of football, media, and marketing. We shouted encouragement at Seattle fans, and shared beers with them. We ate in a restaurant that only serves a cornucopia of meatballs (delicious.) The New Yorkers seem to have their best smiles on, and it has been a wonderful city. Forty eight years later, Dad, I’m here. I’m proof that people will still pay to see the two leagues compete. Pay to show loyalty. Pay to capture a childhood dream. Pay to make a great memory, and their own story. Even a few average fans.