I recently moved to Denver—a mile and a half from The House That John Elway Built, to be exact. Every day, I run by Sports Authority Field (at Mile High Stadium) and think about last year’s AFC Championship meltdown. In the words of my good friend, Pam Beasley of Dunder Mifflin Scranton, “The Dundies are like a car wreck that you want to look away from, but you can’t because your boss is making you.” Replace “Dundies” with “Sports Authority Field” and “boss” with my “Cultish Adherence to The Church of Tom and Bill,” and that’s my state of mind: eyes glued, mind engrossed to the death scene of the 2013 Patriots.
When I run by the stadium, it’s out of necessity—to adjust to the thin air, to explore a new place, to meditate through exercise. I learn best on foot. When I drive in a new place, I usually get lost and flustered, and my inner Bostonian impatience comes out. Luckily, Denver functions in a grid system and not a spidery web of one-way, unpaved, un-parkable roads. My sense of direction is contingent on me actually feeling the ground. It’s best for me and anyone else on the road.
So, I run. And, by choice, I almost always head south along Cherry Creek to get a nice, up-close view of the stadium. Unlike Gillette, Sports Authority is right in the heart of things. It’s minutes from downtown, alongside a trolley car route, across from maybe the coolest graffiti outside of Banksy I’ve ever seen, and adjacent to the city’s Children’s Museum and aquarium. It’s impossible be in a bad mood in the area. I’m supposed to feel shitty and vengeful and anxious when I see Peyton’s Laboratory that close, but I don’t. Maybe it’s the sound of old ladies ooh-ing and aah-ing on the crawling trolley or the sound of kids stoked on life after seeing a REAL LIFE SHARK. Maybe it’s the unbeatable sun and lack of humidity that’s made me less testy in enemy territory. Maybe it’s me slowing turning into a fan of the Broncos? I kid.
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I still feel the loss from last year. The Pats were clearly outmatched and offensively depleted that game (and that season). At the time, it stung cause it was Peyton Manning and one game from the Big Game. The Pats weren’t robbed with a flukey Helmet Snag or Asante Samuel Botch or Welker Drop; they were simply fried. They milked every possible asset as best they could.
After the season, I did my standard, stubborn, Not-Checking-ESPN-For-A-Few-Weeks-After-My-Team-Hits-The-Dust routine. Like always, it helped the pain—as did the Seahawks’ ability to make Peyton look like Eli.
By late-February, I was excited about the potential of a Healthy Gronk.
By mid-March, I was more than a little excited about Darrelle Revis.
By late-April, I was entertained by this Jimmy Garropolo fella.
By mid-May, I decided to take my talents to the Mile High City.
By late-July, I found myself running right around where Wes Welker lay that nasty hit on his now teammate, Aquib Talib.
By early-August, I found myself in a bar with a whole lot of orange and blue after the Broncos’ pre-season win at home against the Seahawks. A dude wearing a Demaryius Thomas jersey approached me with a fake smile and pointed at my shirt.
“You must drink the Belichick Kool Aid, too, huh? People talk about Brady versus Manning, you know? The only real debate is Manning versus Elway.”
I forgot I was wearing a Red Sox shirt. That explained the assumed Boston allegiance.
Week 9 Broncos-Pats has the makings of another classic. I just wish the game were within running distance.
Cover photo credit: moniglehealthcarebranding.com