By Martin McDade
So much has changed in my life since I first became a Broncos fan. Back then I was a 15 year kid living in Cumbernauld, (just outside Glasgow) with my parents and two older brothers. Now I’m married with kids! The world too has changed so much, mainly with technology and politically. Our Denver Broncos have went from navy blue back to the traditional orange. And they have went from NFL also rans to world champions.
And it’s only been 16 years!
Back in 2001, I was just a normal kid living in west of Scotland. I went to school, socialised with friends, was into video games, soccer, and chasing girls (failing miserably) – a typical boy.
As I mentioned, soccer was and always will be the most popular sport here in Scotland and throughout the UK. My immediate family were all Rangers fans so inevitably I followed them too and like the Broncos, that passion for them won’t ever leave me. About that time, being the competitive youngster I was, I began to feel a little fed up that I only enjoyed the one sport.At school I tried Rugby, now I’m not sure if it was the slow pace of the sport but I never got accustomed to it. However I enjoyed the physicality of it. I like to partially watch the Six nations and the Rugby World Cup but I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan. I looked into other sports like Golf and basketball. Whilst they seemed interesting enough to play, watching them bored me in all honesty.
During this time, my friend Kenny had just returned from a family holiday to San Francisco where he had relatives. He kept going on about an American football game his uncle took him to. He went to see… the Oakland Raiders. He came home with a Raiders jersey, showed me the game-day programme etc and he just kept going on and on about it. He literally couldn’t stop talking about it. After returning home, with his remaining holiday money he went and bought the Madden video game for the PlayStation. One day I went round to his house and he was playing it and I got curious. I was trying to follow what was going on with the rules etc. It seemed overwhelming to begin with, but he seemed addicted to the game so I thought it must be good.He eventually let me have a go at the game. Before my game started, I arrived at the team selection bit. I was flicking through the teams, mainly looking for a cool looking uniform I liked the look of, preferably in blue like my soccer team Rangers. But I stopped at a certain team, I liked the uniform and my friend hits out with… “don’t go them, I hate them. They are the Raiders rivals”. That’s all I needed. To wind up my best mate, I selected the Denver Broncos. I started to get quite into it and typically I kept selecting the Broncos every single time much to my amusement. I even started getting acquainted with the players’ names and really enjoyed playing the game so much that I ended up purchasing my own copy of the video game.
We decided we needed to go watch the Scottish Claymores for some live football. I thought watching the NFL Europe league would be a good introduction to the big league, and it also threw in some patriotism. Their opening game of the 2001 season was still a few months away so we patiently waited. After our first game at Hampden Park, I was totally hooked on the sport. Me and my friend Kenny went along to all the home games and we watched every week on Sky Sports whenever the highlights aired. We even got together when they aired the road games, mostly on tape delay so we avoided the score not to spoil watching it. Claymores finished that season with a disappointing 4-6 record. But it didn’t deter me learning all I could about this sport. Even the history of it.
I’ve always been keen on learning history in varying forms and it also applies to sports. So with my new found interest in the sport and Denver Broncos in particular, I quickly learned the great history of the Broncos from their humble beginnings in 1960 to the present day. I bought myself a special DVD player en order to play American region DVDs so I could buy Broncos DVDs. I got full game DVDs, including the back to back Super Bowl wins in 97/98, big playoff wins and also ‘The complete history of the Denver Broncos’. I watched them all over and over anticipating the start of the new NFL season. However I was on holiday with family when the season started so I had to wait even longer to watch my first Broncos game. Before my holiday I got myself my first ever Broncos jersey from eBay. It was the blue home jersey #87 Ed McCaffrey. The first game of that season was when we beat the Giants on Monday Night Football, you will likely remember it for seeing Ed McCaffrey break his leg. Being away on holiday with no internet access, I had to make do with finding out the score when I got home a few days later. I couldn’t believe just after buying his jersey that Eddie Mac broke his leg!
Back then there was no NFL game-pass, Sky sports only had two games per week and the prime-time games in America weren’t aired live in the UK. The only way I could watch Broncos live was if their game was selected for Sky sports. Back then it seemed like Sky sports only showed Broncos 2-3 times per season. So I had to make do with listening to 850 KOA online, the local Denver radio station.
Thinking back, there is no way I could cope with listening to the game nowadays. Thankfully the UK has great coverage now. Luckily for me, even before game-pass came about, I found a website which streamed the games in great quality so I been spoiled a little longer than most in the UK.
The Broncos were slowly becoming a big passion for me, I’d spend hours online on the fan discussion boards talking with fellow fans. You’ve probably heard of this forum, its called the Orangemane. They have an annual site meet up at a Broncos game, tailgate before game etc. I think I was about 19 years old at this point, I thought there was no point in me going over until I’m 21 at least. Especially with the stricter alcohol laws in the US. So I decided in two years’ time, when I’m 21, I’m going over to Denver and meeting up with the Orangemane crowd. So I started saving up for it. Still living with my parents then made it easy to save as you could imagine. Once tickets went on sale for the 2006 season, I purchased them immediately. The meet up was for the Raiders game on Sunday night football, however I noticed Broncos were at home the week before against the Ravens on Monday night football. So I thought if I’m spending all this money, I may as well go over for two games.
I always remember arriving in Denver on the Saturday night local time. I checked into my hotel, and fought the urge to sleep for a few hours so I could acclimatise to the time difference. Despite the game itself being another day away, I woke up on the Sunday morning and the first thing I wanted to do was see the stadium and spend a fortune in getting merchandise from the team store. When venturing over to Mile High, I still fondly remember the feeling I had when I could see the stadium in the distance. I was getting goosebumps when approaching the stadium, it felt like a pilgrimage and I was finally here! I booked myself onto the stadium tour and looked around in total awe. I felt that way the entire week I was there. Locals and fellow fans I met over the week treated me like royalty, they were amazed I travelled all this way just to see the Broncos. I was even given the nickname Scotty because I’m Scottish. It’s a trip I’ve longed to return, the city is amazing and so much to do and see. Next time I go over to the US, I want to take in a road game too. However I have technically already taken in a road game – I was at Wembley in 2010 when we lost to the 49ers. I’m happy I still have a winning record when watching Broncos live in person.
Considering I have a wife and kids now, saving up isn’t quite as easy. But when the kids are a little older, me and my little family will be going to Mile High again. Just like my Dad did with me and my brothers with Rangers. I hope to share my love with the Broncos with them continuing the next generation of the Broncos UK family.