Sherry Clingman is without question a die-hard Broncos fan
Shawn Clingman and a friend were heading into Denver’s Mile High Stadium to take in a showdown between the Broncos and divisional rival Kansas City when they came upon a group of Chiefs fans in the parking lot.
The men were bad-mouthing then-Denver Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, and the person at Shawn Clingman’s side was having none of it.
The friend approached the group and sternly informed them they could talk trash about anyone else, but they couldn’t do it about McCaffrey, one of the most affable athletes to wear a Broncos’ uniform.
“Mother, what are you doing?” Sherry Clingman recalled her exasperated son exclaiming before leading her away.
What Clingman, a 61-year-old East Middle School teacher, was doing was being a Broncos fan.
But not just your average watch-’em-on-TV, root-for-’em-when-they’re-good follower.
As a season-ticket holder, Clingman has driven 250 miles each way from her Grand Junction home to attend two preseason games and eight regular-season games every year for the last 18 years. She can count on her hands the number of games she’s missed.
She’s filled her den with autographed footballs and pictures, posters, miniature statues, bobbleheads, cereal boxes, mugs and countless other pieces of memorabilia.
She’s the kind of fan whose friend ended up on the same wedding guest list as John Elway several years ago. Thinking of Clingman, the friend grabbed a Coors Light bottle the Broncos legend drank from, nabbed a napkin he wiped his mouth with and snapped and framed a photo of the quarterback, cropping out the wedding party in the process. All three prizes are proudly displayed in the den.
When Elway was inducted in the professional football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 2004, Clingman was there to witness it in person.
“I cackled like I was a 2-year-old,” she said. “It was one of the highlights of my life.”
Clingman adopted her fanaticism for the Broncos from her father. Her parents had three daughters, but that was no deterrent to Lloyd Partridge’s love of fishing, hunting and watching sports. Football ultimately stuck with Clingman.
“I wanted to know about the passion he developed because I loved my dad,” she said. “If he was interested in it, I was interested in it.”
One September day in 1993, about a month after he and his daughter attended a preseason contest, Partridge went bowling, came home, sat down to watch the Broncos play on TV and suffered a fatal heart attack.
Clingman figures he died doing what he loved.
She and her family joke that when her time is up, they’ll scatter her remains into the cracks of the Invesco Field
Attending the number of games she has over the years has given Clingman an up-close perspective of how fandom has evolved.
When she first began going to Broncos games, there was a live band and family atmosphere. People shelled out money for tickets for the fun of the game.
Now, it’s almost a fad to attend a game, and people seem to latch onto whichever team is winning rather than remain loyal to one.
And don’t get her started on “fans” who sell their tickets to fans of the opposing team.
“I’d rather tear them up and throw them away,” she said.
Clingman, who began working at East Middle when it opened in 1971, retired a few years ago, only to find she hated retirement. So she returned to work half-time in the morning as a social studies and science teacher.
That gives her plenty of time to watch ESPN’s full lineup of afternoon programming so she can get her fix and stay informed.
And being informed means she has no shortage of opinions on the current state of the team.
She lamented that the firing of longtime coach Mike Shanahan “felt like a divorce.”
She’s not impressed with new coach Josh McDaniels. “It feels like he’s dismantling the team,” she said.
She doesn’t mind Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton — that is, “if you want to watch him throw a 10-yard pass.”
For Clingman, deciding to be a passionate fan is no different than choosing how she approaches to do anything else in her life.
“I don’t think you do anything half-heartedly,” she said.