It’s hard to classify winning the Super Bowl as an underrated experience with a straight face. It’s only the largest secular holiday in America, one of the last universally shared annual experiences we have as a culture, and is largely regarded as the pinnacle of sports achievement. I grant all this.
Yet, from a fan’s perspective, I had forgotten just how incredible it feels to see your team win it all. And it feels really fucking good.
As a fan, the Denver Broncos have provided an embarrassment of riches. They’ve gone to seven Super Bowls in my lifetime, won three of them, outside of the dreadful Josh McDaniels years have been relevant and generally entertaining every single year, have one of the premier owners in all of sports, play in a stadium that was financed in a way that didn’t gouge taxpayers and is run remarkably responsibly. That’s amazing.
I’m not going to complain (not really anyway) about losing those four Super Bowls because having a team that consistently finds its way to the Super Bowl is pretty fucking great as a fan. The poor Cleveland Browns have only had two winning seasons since returning to the league in 1999, and their in-state neighbor the Cincinnati Bengals are 0-7 in the playoffs since 2005.
But when the Broncos lose a Super Bowl, they LOSE a Super Bowl. Just complete obliteration. 43-8 against the Seahawks, 55-10 against the 49ers, 42-10 against the Redskins, 39-20 against the Giants. When I was a kid, that’s what the Broncos did – they did well in the regular season, and then get skullfucked in the Super Bowl. It’s oddly dispiriting to watch.
Hell, just a couple of months ago the Broncos gagged twice against the Steelers and – guh – the Raiders, and with the red-hot Chiefs closing the gap on them, the postseason looked like it might be slipping away entirely, nevermind the top overall seed. But with two wins against the Bengals and the Chargers, they captured the #1 seed and rode some momentum into the playoffs.
It’s weird to think back on it now, but this team never seemed like the team. Sure, the defense was always otherworldly, but the Broncos won nearly all of their games in heart attack fashion. If a couple of months ago, you said the Broncos would have to get through the Steelers, the Patriots and the 15-1 Carolina Panthers to win the Super Bowl, how many of us would have honestly thought they could do it? I certainly wouldn’t.
And that’s why I think winning the Super Bowl might actually be an underrated experience. An NFL season is a war of attrition, and whoever can survive and outlast everyone else usually wins. In 1997, the Packers seemed unstoppable and the Broncos were 11-point underdogs. Yet, they found a way to win. Two years ago, Peyton Manning and our offense set all kinds of crazy records and looked nearly unbeatable. The Seahawks and their insane defense then proceeded to brutally curbstomp them. I stopped watching that game after halftime and turned on Chopped on Food Network during the second half.
I’m rambling a bit here, but I think it’s only because I’m riding a wave of mild euphoria today. A Super Bowl win is statistically improbable, and the logical side of my brain recognizes that while the emotional side tries to temper the memory of a Super Bowl win as a defense mechanism against disappointment. I had forgotten how it felt 18 years ago when the Broncos won their first one, but it all came flooding back last night. It’s awesome, and my day is much more fun as a result.
I’d say it’s got to be hard to be a fan of teams like the Vikings, the Bills, the Lions, or any other team that’s never gotten to experience that feeling, but I’m a fan of the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs, so I know it well. And not to defend any of the frontrunning assholes you and I know, but I can sort of empathize with anyone who jumps on the bandwagon of whoever happens to be good in a particular season or set of seasons.
Sticking with a team that never rewards your loyalty with a championship is frustrating and very deflating. So, as a survival instinct, I totally get coopting someone else’s success. It doesn’t make it any more noble, it only allows for deeper human empathy.
I’m not here to gloat, and you won’t find me garishly celebrating this year’s victory. I’m just going to savor the flavor because I recognize how rare it is.
Thanks for good feelings, Broncos. And way to go!