As a preoccupied pupil, a carefully created doodle in a period of English confirmed my burgeoning interest in American Football in the late 1980s.
Instead of compiling evidence on Holden Caulfield’s motivation, I found myself drawing a resplendent American Footballer clad in a crimson red uniform.
To be honest, I didn’t know the first thing about the game. In fact, it’s presence in my life was more of an annoyance due to my room-sharing elder brother religiously tuned into channel 4 late at night to catch the cross Atlantic action.
Later in my adolescence, I too, would religiously tune into late night channel4 but only if it had a red triangle. (Ask your dad…….privately)
Nonetheless, long before blue movies became an, ahem outlet, I still had to contend with my red American footballer and the team who were to be honoured with my support.
I told my brother I was now into the Gridiron Game and how I wished to support a team in red.
Now it might have been the contrast of our cheap portable television or in hindsight I might have exposed my brother’s lack of knowledge about the game – or worse, his colour blindness but his answer would change my life forever and spark a bond that still remains some near 30 years later.
After some deliberation, he suggested I should support the Denver Broncos as I would like their poster boy, No 7 John Elway.
Whilst the Red Crush doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, he was absolutely spot on with the latter point. Watching The Duke was completely captivating. A true master at work, to me he was the epitome of the quarterback position.
I directed my all my enthusiasm (or borderline obsessive personality traits as the Guidance Teachers liked to call them) towards all things Bronco, much to the relief of girls in my year group who were spared my hormone induced lustings.
Instead, I devoured every bit of information I could find about my beloved Broncos and being such a class organisation they sent me pictures, programmes and memorabilia at their own cost for my school project.
I bought (well, my mum bought) VHS tapes, subscribed to First Down magazine and even tuned into the barely audible Army Radio to hear action from around the NFL.
In those days, I could have easily specialised in Denver Broncos on Mastermind, though like today, I would still get creamed on the general knowledge round. (Yes, I am being modest, I am actually a three time winner of TV quiz shows!)
Still back then I knew every player on the roster from Karl Mecklenburg to Sammy Winder. I loved his mudwalk celebration so much, I didn’t realise then he was, at best, an average Running back. I adored the 3 Amigos and the man mountain of a Tight End, Clarance Kay wishing it was me catching the sizzling spirals from Mr Elway.
I studied the history of the organisation and the significant players and plays. I may have missed seeing The Drive live but I did witness The Fumble and remember Jeremiah Castille’s desperate lunge to deny an Ernest Byner certain TD and further curse the tortured Browns organisation. Good enough for them, I’d say – even if now they are to be pitied rather than feared.
I have supported Denver through thick and thin, even thinner and now as we fatten ourselves up again.
The Super Bowl humiliations are etched in my psyche. Although I’d still argue Doug Williams fumbled at 10-0 down and at 17 zip Timmy Smith would never have had the opportunity to have a quarter of a lifetime and cause me years later to shiver when I hear his name. The ecstasy of Elway’s career defining Super Bowl win is still my favourite ever sporting moment (Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win ran it close) and how when it rained it poured! His second ring was as easy as it was expected.
I’ve remained loyal, through the Brian Griese years, the excitement of Jake Plummer and the misguided faith in Josh McDaniels. I have enjoyed the renaissance under Elway’s tenure even if it meant I had to endure Fox’s faux pas as his cautionary play calling resulted in Denver failing to punch our golden ticket as Baltimore broke our hearts. My awe of Manning has been replaced by misgivings as he attempts to leave last chance saloon on his terms.