Anyone who has had a family member or friend diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease knows the pain that is associated with this brutal disease. It is frightening for the person who has the disease and can be devastating to even the closest of families. Pat Bowlen’s decision to step down from his role as owner of the Denver Broncos was somewhat expected – he had already been open to the media about having issues with short term memory loss and had ceded day to day activities to Broncos President Joe Ellis. But it is still very sad news for all football fans, and serves as further proof that Bowlen was a truly great team owner.
Imagine the drama that could have occurred if Bowlen tried to keep this secret for much longer, or hadn’t already started a transition process, or had never created the Bowlen Trust Fund which will all but ensure a smooth transition of ownership for the Broncos. Bowlen didn’t need to do any of these things but he did – and we should all be grateful that he handled this challenging transition with such grace.
In a statement from Bowlen’s wife Annabel she said, “Pat has always wanted the focus to be soley on the Denver Broncos and the great fans who have supported this team with such passion during his 30 years as owner.” I think Bowlen absolutely proved that today, if there were any doubters out there.
Bowlen also reminded us all that a person’s personal health should always come before work, even if that work is football. It’s easy for fans or the media to say that winning is the only important thing about football – the only thing that matters. But when players retire because of their concerns about previous concussions, such as the Seattle Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice, I may be sad that they are retiring because I enjoy seeing them play, but I am also secretly relieved for them and their families that they put their health concerns before the game.
I’m sure Pat Bowlen would have loved to not tell the entire world that he has Alzheimers – who would really? But he did so for the good of the team and to put the focus on his health and his family. I applaud him for that. And I wish Bowlen and his family the very best in the years to come.