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Field of Dreams

It may surprise but my connection to Denver runs deeper than simply a place that I stumbled upon while on some mad big bike-tour. When other kids dreamed of visiting Anfield or Old Trafford I longed to see Mile High Stadium. Soccer skipped my consciousness as a kid and instead I enjoyed watching last Sunday's NFL game high-lights this Sunday with Mick Luckhurst and Gary Imlach on Channel 4. An aunt's trip to the US had yielded some Los Angeles Rams and New York Jets stationary for my two brothers. I can't recall my present but I think a cool Donald Duck pencil top and a huge draw-string bag full of sweets may have been it. I had lost out in the draft for a team but Santa soon solved that particular dilemma. As part of my Christmas 1986 treats I received a Denver Broncos sweat-shirt. A passion was born.

It was a timely gift as the Broncos had made the play-offs and would make the Super Bowl a month later. We lost to the New York Giants but to be AFC champions was still a good thing. I wasn't emotionally invested yet but the NFL was supported by a small underground few in my year in school. I would discuss American Football with Birdy (Giants), McGuirk (Dolphins) and Andy (Redskins). If I wasn't talking NFL on Monday morning I was likely talking wrestling but that's another story. The popularity of the sport was growing in Britain and Ireland and the circle of people in my year who supported the NFL was growing too. It wasn't mainstream in a rugby school but it was cool. The next year the Broncos unbelievably went to the Super Bowl again. This time I stayed up in the middle of the night to watch the first half. It was obvious the Broncos would lose once more. It was bitterly disappointing to have to face the growing number of Redskins fans who were jumping on the bandwagon the next day. Still, two straight Super Bowl defeats was hardly an embarrassment. The real humiliation would come however, when two years later the Broncos faced up against the San Francisco 49ers. Despite Broncos quarter-back John Elway coming off an average regular season he had delivered possibly his best ever game in the AFC championship. This was to be a duel of two of the leagues biggest quarter-backs. Unfortunately, Elway completed just 10 of 26 passes for a pathetic 108 yards, had two interceptions and fumbled twice. He did manage to recover one of his fumbles and he ran in the Broncos only touchdown. In contrast Joe Montana won his fourth Super Bowl and his second in a row. He completed 22 of 29 passes for 297 yards and threw for five touchdowns. That San Francisco team were probably one of the best teams to have passed through the NFL. They already had a number of stars but that season a few more emerged on the team. They had the best offence in the NFL and the third meanest defence. Elway was now 0-3 in the Super Bowl and the Broncos had ignominiously joined the Minnesota Vikings as being the only other team to lose four Super Bowls. I remember taking my duvet down to watch the game in the middle of the night full of excitement and optimism only to become increasingly upset and frustrated as I watched my team getting destroyed. That game was the most lop-sided game in Super Bowl history with the 49ers managing to be the only team ever to score two touchdowns in all four quarters. The Broncos were thumped 55-10 in what remains the biggest Super Bowl defeat in history. Needless to say I was distraught. I was so ashamed that I went into my parents bedroom to ask if I could skip school. I didn't want to face the public humiliation the next day but my parents were having none of it. I faced the firing squad in school but thankfully they pulled blanks and spared me.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since those days, including Elway finally coming good with back-to-back Super Bowl wins for the Broncos against the Green Bay Packers in 1998 and the Atlanta Falcons in 1999. While I tuned out to the fortunes of the team over time the city of Denver has always been deeply rooted in my consciousness as a result of the emotion I had for the Broncos. I was so excited to have the opportunity to visit Mile High Stadium after all these years. My dream to visit what is now referred to as Invesco Field may have lost importance and meaning with age but I still wanted to complete on this long-range pass. It was in part a tribute to that little kid who cried all those years at the losses he had to bear and in part a celebration of what I had just completed, not just in terms of the trip but in terms of everything I have accomplished since then. Life has been full of amazing experiences since those days and it was nice to be somewhere meaningful as a place to call a halt on the trip.

The pre-game fun started in Governor’s Park bar downtown with the Denver Cruisers who were holding their annual Orange Crush bike ride. The Denver Cruisers are a group of bike advocates who meet on Wednesday nights over the summer. They meet in bars downtown for pints and then ride around Denver on their beach cruisers in fancy dress to lots of fanfare and madness. They were meeting up in various locations to ride to the game and of course, anybody with a bike was encouraged to join them. After some beers we took over the streets and rolled towards the river-side bike-paths which took us to the stadium. With free passes to the Broncos Barn we were able to drink some more before the game and then those with tickets could make their way inside and find their seats to watch the visit of the New York Jets. It was a close match and the Broncos led by three points with a handful of minutes to go. Denver were far from convincing though and didn't have much of a running game owing to injuries. The defence was also shaky and the match was very much in the balance. The team were only 2-3 and couldn't really risk losing another game so early in the season. The match was lost on a pass interference call, which allowed the Jets to move 40 yards up-field onto the goal-line. It was such a stupid foul for the corner-back to make. There was no guarantee of the receiver completing the pass so to commit the foul and give them the ball right on the goal-line was absurd. The lack of discipline and the loss suggested the Broncos were in for a difficult season. They were. Unbelievably the other teams in their division were equally woeful and so interest was still maintained even though the team had no chance of doing anything. They finished the season a lowly 4-12 and coach Josh McDaniels was sacked. They brought John Elway back into the fold to get the club out of its current bind, much like Liverpool nostalgically brought in King Kenny to right the fortunes of LFC in the Premiership. The Broncos are one of the biggest franchises in the NFL and have the most sold-out games in the league. A 4-12 season is totally unacceptable considering the scale of the club and the resources at the players' disposal. After all these years it was so disappointing to arrive in town for what represents the Broncos worst season ever. It brought back all the upset from all those Super Bowl defeats but at least I had realised a dream.

Chat soon


the Denver Cruisers ride to the gamearrival at Invesco Field (Mile High Stadium)the dude with the boom-box - I couldn't figure out how the music was following us along at firstinside the broncos barn for some beers before the gamemy fan-clubhellooo ladies!pink attire for breast cancer awareness daygetting us in the mood - as if the excitement of the game wasn't enoughfield of visionnot a bad seat in the house

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