On the weekend celebrating America’s birthday, I wanted to honor the team that has become the new “America’s Team”; the Denver Broncos.
Since the 1970s, the Dallas Cowboys have been known as “America’s Team”. It is a moniker that has honored one of the NFL’s premier franchises. Well, what used to be a premier franchise, anyway. In a poll conducted a few months ago by Public Policy Polling, the data showed that the Cowboys are actually considered by a majority of the nation, America’s “Least Favorite Team”. This very same poll concluded that in fact, the Denver Broncos now own that prestigious title.
"“In fact the designation the Cowboys do win out for is America’s least favorite team. 23% say the Cowboys are their least favorite team with no one else coming particularly close.”"
Since the renaissance of Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos have captured our nation’s heart. Manning has always been loved by the public at large. He’s well spoken. He’s classy. He’s funny, when he wants to be. And he takes winning very seriously. His Louisiana southern accent doesn’t hurt either. Ah, shux.
And in all seriousness, what’s more American than a Bronco? In fact, I was at a rodeo yesterday, just like thousands of others all across the fruited plain, as we collectively celebrated Independence Day. As I watched the rodeo from the bleachers, I saw the valiant participants, as they rode a bucking Bronco, holding on for dear life. The crowd cheered. And afterwards, we all beheld a fantastic fireworks show to top off the night. A rodeo. One of the great American spectacles. And what was the featured animal? A Bronco.
If you take a future Hall of Fame quarterback, namely, Peyton Manning, and combine that with a great American symbol, a Bronco, you’re halfway through the equation that ultimately sums up the new “America’s Team”.
The other factors…..
The NFL franchise that is the Denver Broncos. Also one of the league’s classiest, premier clubs. A team with a prestigious history and a winning culture. Americans love winning. In any facet of life, other than World Cup and the Vietnam War, America always wins. And the citizens of our country have come to expect to win.
Since Manning joined the Broncos, the team has gone 26-6 in the regular season. That’s a remarkable string of success. And in the NFL, an acronym that stands for “Not For Long”, it isn’t easy to sustain that level success.
Now we’re coming to understand the motivating factors that resulted in a majority of Americans calling the Broncos “America’s Team”. As the Public Policy Polling piece points out, this designation comes with no small measure of bandwagonism. And that’s okay.
Most of you reading this column have been fans of the Denver Broncos for years. Most of you for life. At the very least, you’ve been fans long before Manning came to Denver.
We suffered through the twilight of Mike Shanahan’s run as Head Coach and the McDaniels Depredations. We suffered through watching our Pro Bowl veteran QB, Jake Plummer, get benched in the middle of a season. A season that had the Broncos at 7-5 and atop the AFC West. That fateful decision to bench Plummer resulted in the Broncos not only losing the division, but missing out on the playoffs too.
We suffered through the loss of the leader of our defense: Al “Smoke Dog” Wilson. We suffered through the tragic loss of Darrent Williams. And after coming to love our usurping young franchise QB, Jay Cutler, we had to watch the dictatorial Josh McDaniels trade him away to Chicago.
We lived through the ups and downs of the Orton/Tebow showdown. But we finally started to see some light at the end of the tunnel in 2011. The Tebow season. A 6-game winning streak that saw the Broncos miraculously pull off victories that defied all logic and explanation.
And we were ultimately rewarded for our long-suffering patience when the Duke of Denver, John Elway, managed to persuade Peyton Manning to come to Denver and don our beloved Orange and Blue.
The last two years have been a blur. I try to savor each and every game. I try not to take winning for granted. The loss we suffered on February 2nd, 2014 has helped to mitigate that urge. We all know that the duration of Manning’s career is finite. But I feel confident in believing that for the next 3 years, we’re going to be in the Super Bowl hunt. Why?
Because this team is built to win it all. It’s not all about Peyton Manning. They say that there are several cornerstones that make up a Super Bowl-caliber roster. First and foremost, the QB. Check. Then, you got to have a franchise left tackle. Ryan Clady. Check. Then you got to have a premier edge rusher. We have two. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Check. Then, a true shutdown corner. Aqib Talib. Check. You also have to have stars at the skill positions. Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas and Montee Ball, please stand up.
We can confidently check off each of those cornerstones. But what really takes us above and beyond the pail is the DEPTH of our roster. From Derek Wolfe, to Malik Jackson. From Danny Trevathan to Lamin Barrow. From T.J. Ward to Quinton Carter. You can go through the roster and marvel at the quality of depth that Johns Elway and Fox have put together for the Broncos.
We suffered a brutal, humiliating loss in the Super Bowl. But we’ve been there before. And like the days of yore, I fully believe that we will rise above it and overcome the odds to win another Lombardi Trophy.
We only have a few weeks left until the 2014 season gets under way in earnest. And even though we lost the Super Bowl, we’re still the new “America’s Team”. But at the end of the day and despite this corny discourse of mine, that’s all fluff. It’s all window dressing. Pomp and circumstance. As a fan, it’s cool to know that a majority of Americans call the Denver Broncos their favorite team. But what will in fact cement the Broncos as “America’s Team”, not just in name, but in deed, is a World Championship.
Fortunately for Broncos Country, we have guys named John Elway and Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, all waking up in the morning, each and every day, with the sole purpose of doing whatever it takes to climb the mountain. Only time will tell if we ultimately achieve it.
In the meantime, Predominantly Orange wishes you an awesome Independence Day weekend.