Peyton Manning Super Bowl

The other 53 men of my life

My husband knows that he is not my first and only love. He lives in that constant shadow and accepts the fact that I have carried a torch for 53 other men, since 1977.  It’s an open marriage that he has learned to accept and even encourages.  He understands the parameters of our relationship, and has never come between me, and my undying affection for the Denver Broncos.  

The AFC championship game between those who I hold so dear and the New England Patriots was supposed to be it for the season. Hubby surprised me with scalper-acquired tickets, with the financial justification that we go and show support for the team in this last game of the year, and say goodbye to Peyton Manning. Done. Finished. Move on. Better luck next season.

Peyton Manning Super Bowl
Graphic by Riki Takaoka

O ye of little faith.

We didn’t think twice about going to Santa Clara. Well, actually that’s a lie. Anyone who even considers going to the big game will be immediately shocked by the cost involved (don’t ask, I won’t tell you).  You hesitate to tell your friends and family, out of fear of judgment. You live in a paranoid terror that they suspect you either maxed out your credit cards, have more money than you lead on, or you don’t care about the starving children who could benefit from the money you have spent.

I kept it under wraps for just one week. We were going to the Super Bowl.

The two-hour plane ride to Oakland felt more like an aboveground Broncos pep rally of orange and blue-attired Merry Pranksters, aboard an airborne Further (substituting Ken Kesey’s variety of hallucinogenic-inspired enjoyment with the in-flight mini bottles of booze, of course).  The party continued, on an actual bus, to our designated San Francisco hotel, 20 miles due northwest.

On our sightseeing day it became obvious  the Bay Area wasn’t entirely embracing the Super Bowl hosting thing, Even going so far as corralling the masses into a designated “Super Bowl City” locale, away from the central portion of the city.  

There is no polite way to write this, but Super Bowl City was a expletive-mess.  The closest we came to it was a police barricade, keeping what appeared to be the entire combined population of Pueblo and Colorado Springs out.

The bus ride over to the stadium on Super Bowl Sunday, felt more like a funeral procession of Panther and Broncos fans than a trip to the big game. Maybe I should have started a “Here we go Broncos” chant to see if people were breathing.

I don’t think it really dawned on me where I was, and what I was about to be a part of, until that moment I first saw Levi’s Stadium. This would be just the first of numerous times of which my emotions would revert me to an infant. I have to hand it to the people of Santa Clara, they know how to do football palaces.

“Oh my God, Karl Mecklenburg!” Yes, I really screamed that, no more than two inches from #77, the Albino Rhino, Mr. Ring of Fame. I’m sure the entire pre-party fan bash attendees heard me.  I’m pretty sure the mountains moved from the reverberation. Thankfully, I regained enough composure to ask for an autograph and picture, before he could file a restraining order.

I probably need to confess here – I’m very emotional when it comes to the Broncos.  I cry when they win and cry when they lose. My husband knows that this loss of rational behavior is temporary, from September through January, and, as was noted in our marriage vows, is included in that “better or worse” clause.

As we entered the massive Super Bowl compound, the first thing that surprised me was the security fortress around Super Bowl 50. Pardon the embellishment, but it truly seemed as if there was a heavily armed protector for each person attending the game. Between the choppers circling the skies, to the bomb-sniffing dogs on the ground, the employees at Cheyenne Mountain might have felt slighted.

Once to our seats, and back among Broncos fans who are unafraid to show their team spirit, it’s very apparent that orange is the dominant color choice at the game.   Our locale, in the second tier, on the Broncos side of the field, near the end zone, were worth the upgrade. Yes, I do care about the starving children and no, we didn’t win the lottery, nor are we headed for the poor house.

The Super Bowl is no ordinary football game, which is obvious by the pomp and circumstance, before the first ball is snapped. For someone who is used to watching it on TV, the magnitude of display, in person, is incredible, and yes, very emotional. Once we got past the Super Bowl MVPs (yes, the Tom Brady booing was painfully loud), the fireworks, Lady Gaga (who killed it on the National Anthem), and the Blue Angels flyover, it was time for Super Bowl 50.

Peyton Manning to Owen Daniels on the first play of the game – a completion. Great way to get off to a fast start.  Still  59:30 to go and the very polite, almost subdued Panther couple next to us, clapped for the opposing team, while I acted like a Price is Right contestant, screaming like a banshee.

Cam Newton is an incredible quarterback. There, I said it, but Denver’s passing rush was all over him all game long. If there was any doubt that Super Bowl 50 was a Bronco home game, that was left in the end zone when Von Miller finds a hole, and sacks the NFL MVP, as the ball rolls into end zone, for a Malique Jackson fumble recovered TD. Denver 10, Carolina 0, and I’m pretty much losing my voice.

That Panther couple next to us recited, “That’s OK, that’s alright. Plenty of time.” They were right of course. The Panthers made a game of it until a world class Denver defense stepped up.  It was obvious this was not going to be the same disaster of a Super Bowl, from two years ago.

What’s very apparent about physically experiencing a Super Bowl in person, versus in a living room, is the amount of energy in the stands. I’ve never encountered anything so loud.  

We were pretty indifferent about sticking around for the halftime show.  No offense to Coldplay, Bruno Mars and Beyoncé, but I think the NFL dropped the ball on essentially recycling a couple of acts for such an historic 50th anniversary game. If they were going to bring anyone back, I would have killed to see Prince and Bruce, or bring back U2, but I digress. We decided to stick it out, and take part in the audience participation portion, flipping colored cards on cue. To be honest, it was a quite a spectacle, but unlike the audience watching at home, our experience was missing a big component – we really couldn’t hear the music.

After securing a vegan hot dog for me, and a meat version for my husband, we were back in our seats for the second half. Just 30-minutes to go.  The Panthers couple held out hope, but you could tell the newest version of the Orange Crush defense was wearing them down as much as their team.  With every down, the Broncos fans got louder, and the Panthers fans were withering. The mass exodus of those wearing blue and black began right after the successful Bennie Fowler two point conversion.  Broncos fans began collectively singing “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”

Oh my God. We won Super Bowl 50. Cue the waterworks.

I pretty much lost the use of my legs, and fell into my seat, as I blubbered into my commemorative Broncos Super Bowl towel. The Panthers couple were the kind of opposing team fans you wished you could always sit beside.  Nice, polite, didn’t get up every five minutes to go to the concession stands, and congratulatory. They took the loss as well as could be expected…and they were concerned for my welfare. Seriously.

“Is your wife alright?”  They looked over and saw me bawling hysterically, once the clock zeroed out and the confetti cannons spewed little paper Lombardi trophies onto the field.

“This is what she does,” my husband said. “She’s a Broncos fan.”