Since Broncos fans have no dog (or horse) in the Super Bowl XLV fight, I thought I would relive the greatest day of football in many of our lives.
Do you recall where you were on January 25th, 1998? Do you still get a little anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think of the days leading up to that Super Bowl Sunday? I still get butterflies in my gut 13 years later when I think of that Sunday afternoon.
It had been seven years since the previous Super Bowl appearance by the Broncos. When we woke the morning of SB XXXII, the Broncos were an 11.5 point underdog to the Packers. They were a Wild Card entry into “the tournament”. Green Bay was the defending champions. Lastly, the NFC was working on a 13 game Super Bowl winning streak. There was no way our Broncos could win, and it reflected in all of the “expert” analysis.
I was in the midst of a year-long work assignment in Jacksonville, FL. One could say it was a year-long sentence, but I digress. The Broncos had just thrashed the Jagwads (as Woody Paige called them in the Denver Post a year prior) 42-17 in the 1997 Wild Card Playoff game. I had revenge against the two or three Jags fans down there who felt the need to remind me of the 1996 Divisional Playoff debacle. At that point I was playing with house money. Denver then went into Kansas City and smacked the Chiefs around. Then we went into Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship game. The rest, as they say, is history.
Even though I felt like Denver had a great season and accomplished more than fans could have hoped, I wanted this win. I did not want the Broncos to become the first five-time loser of the big game. I did not want another embarrassment in front of 200+ million viewers. I even resorted to making a deal with some contrived sports gods: if we won, I would take a dip in the pool outside my front door and get the Broncos logo tattooed on my arm. Hey, whatever it took I was willing to evoke all of the karma I all could.
As the Pack took the opening possession and matriculated the ball down the field (thanks Hank Stram) with relative ease, my first thought was HERE WE GO AGAIN!!!! However when the Broncos responded with a Terrell Davis 1-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive, that feeling subsided immediately. Something seemed really different. The Broncos had never responded to previous Super Bowl adversities with such an emphatic answer. They clearly came to play. In doing so, they calmed the nerves of Bronco Nation. This was going to be a real fight and Denver had just punched Green Bay in the mush with a right hook from which they would not recover.
The remainder of the game ebbed and flowed like the fight scene in a Rocky movie. In what I feel is the best Super Bowl ever, the Broncos and Packers threw hay-makers for four quarters. I remember feeling that this was our game to lose near the end of the third quarter. That was when Dick Enberg, Paul Maguire, and Phil Simms started pointing out how gassed Gilbert Brown, Reggie White, and the rest of the Packers defense was. There was a shot of Brown on one knee during a time out and it looked like he was going to pass out. Then came the defining moment: John Elway’s whirly-bird after an 8-yard run for a first down. Number 7 was not going to be denied. Yet after T.D. went into the end zone walking, “standing up” as Dave Logan put it, our nerves were going to be put to one more test. The defense passed the test with flying colors.
As soon as John Mobley deflected Brett Favre’s 4th down pass with about 30 second left, I bolted out the front door and headed for the pool. Lombardi was finally ours. If I was not on such an adrenaline high, I would have collapsed from a day of being on one heck of an emotional rollercoaster. Pat Bowlen stated, “This one’s for John!” It was for all of us too.
Epilouge: I did go for a swim in 40-degree weather. Thankfully, the water was much warmer. The next day, I got that Broncos tattoo and thus, I paid my debt to the sports gods – with great pleasure.
Where were you on that greatest of days?