Broncos prove once again they are Super Bowl legit

The Denver Broncos have won the AFC West title for a second straight season and, after nearly a decade of doldrums, are legitimate contenders for a Super Bowl crown.

Everyone in earshot wants to jump on board. Feel free; hop on.

But be warned: You might end up with a new diversion that can severely impact your life. It happened to my mother. It happened to Sherry Clingman. It happened to Jay Gorby.

My mother read every inch of two daily Denver newspapers from her kitchen table in Aurora — including the sports pages.

When the American Football League came into being in 1960, she was ready for it. She never missed a beat, hauling two sons and other assorted hangers-on to preseason contests in then-antiquated Denver University football stadium and to regular-season contests at Bears Stadium and eventually Mile High Stadium.

My mother defended her rather odd obsession with what was a terrible football team by saying, “It is the only way I can communicate with the males in the family.”

She attended every Bronco home game for nearly 30 years, sitting in the north end zone where she repeatedly used every ounce of her nearly 100 pounds fighting for NFL footballs on extra-point kicks back in the days before the net went up.

She took flowers, pies and cakes to hospitals where injured Broncos had surgeries.

She knew many of the Broncos by first names, had Broncos slippers, a Broncos night gown and other assorted knickknacks strewn throughout our home. She blew the family budget one year on a Super Bowl trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., her one chance at seeing her team win it all prior to her death in 1989.

Sadly, she never got to see the John Elway Era, although if it is indeed heavenly possible, I’m sure she didn’t miss a beat of it from her north end zone seat up above.

One Bronco fan who did watch the Elway days and has stood by her team even through recent tough times is Grand Junction’s Clingman, a legendary figure with students, staff and parents after more than 30 years of teaching at the middle school level.

Ah yes, Clingman’s classroom: It was a thing of beauty if you were a Broncos fan, with a Bronco locker and other memorabilia hanging on walls or resting on cabinets.

Clingman’s rooting interest started with her father, saying she watched baseball and football with him on TV.  “Football took,” she says.

She and husband, Hugh, made the season-ticket trek from Grand Junction to Denver for every home game for decades before Hugh soured on the trip. Nowadays, Clingman makes the trip with son Shawn.

She cheered for the Broncos rabidly during the Elway days, admits she enjoyed Jake Plummer and his exploits, and says she absolutely abhors what Josh McDaniels did to the team in his short tenure as head coach.

And she cheers on — despite the one thing that could have changed her attitude forever:

She had a photo prominently displayed on her classroom wall for years, a photo of the quarterback she constantly rooted against because he was so tough on the Broncos, Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts.

The photo showed Manning standing on the sidelines, picking his nose.

When Denver’s Elway put out the red carpet for Manning and signed him as a free agent last spring, Clingman didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

After a rather rough start, Clingman was having a hard time cheering for Manning until she reached an agreement with son Shawn that she would cheer for the nosepicker — if he could lead the Broncos past the Chargers in a key game on Oct. 15. He did, and she now does, though she says, “We sold our soul to the Devil.”

Grand Junction’s Gorby is perhaps a bit more typical as a Bronco fan. He spouts the gospel from his checkstand at the downtown City Market and boasts a wide-ranging collection of Broncos jerseys that he proudly displays at every opportunity.

Although he hasn’t gone the season ticket route, he says he can’t come close to knowing how many games he has attended on the other side of the mountain.

“Everyone in the store knows that I love them and, if a ticket becomes available, they know who to talk to,” he says.

Gorby says he attended every home game in Elway’s Super Bowl marches, begging and buying tickets as the opportunity presented itself.

Now, he watches weekly from a neighborhood tavern, yelling, screaming and cheering with every Bronco point, cursing the gods on every turnover, doing what real fans do.

If you haven’t done it already, and it sounds like fun, jump on board with the likes of the three mentioned above.

But beware; Broncomania can be addictive.

Rick Jussel is a former sports editor of The Daily Sentinel. He, too, has Broncomania.

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