United In Orange. **
It's a battle cry for Denver Broncos fans in this hashtag era, but I've been bleeding orange for much longer than social media has been around.
As a kid growing up in Nebraska I was force-fed football from birth. The Nebraska Cornhuskers are the ONLY show in town and you are spoken for on a collegiate football level for life. The pro game on the other hand is wide open. Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and Broncos fans can be found a plenty, as well as a smattering of Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys fans thrown in for good measure.
Now, my grandpa was from Texas and had me in a Cowboys' onesie before I was out of the womb. My mom spent a lot of her youth in California and had taken a liking to the Los Angeles Rams, but both of them eventually decided I should be able to make my own choice of who to follow. Just like football is a sort of religion in Nebraska, they were going to let me have my own spiritual journey.
My awakening, so to speak, happened at seven years old. I was a kid who watched the Huskers every Saturday and played outside all day Sunday. I didn't want to stay indoors both days of my weekend so the NFL hadn't caught my eye yet. Then I got sick. A bout of bronchial pneumonia sidelined me and had me in a tent with a humidifier watching television like a modern day kid. It was then I got my first eyeful of good ol' No. 7, John Elway. I was hooked.
The man played with a reckless abandon, a stubborn will, and had a cannon for an arm like no other. He could tuck it and truck a defensive back without a care for his body. He could scramble and make a play. He refused to lose. It was amazing. His toughness reminded me a bit of the Huskers I watched on Saturdays, and I became just as enamored with the "Orange Crush" mentality on defense.
I watched every minute of that 1986 season. I bit my nails as a kid, still do during Broncos games, and you better believe they were chewed to the nub during those last five minutes and two seconds against the Browns on what will forever be known as "The Drive." I was sure my team was going to win it all that year.
But it wasn't. Doug Williams and the football team from Washington stunned them.
Kids can be bandwagon creatures. It's why they cheat at games. It's why they break rules. They like to win. But I couldn't stop rooting for the Broncos. Maybe it was because I'd already gotten used to big game breakdowns when Tom Osborne and the Huskers couldn't seem to win the big bowl games. Who knows? They were my team through hell or high water and I was sticking with them.
An aging surefire Hall of Fame quarterback who still has to answer to best "regular" season quarterback because of his perceived inability to win big games.
A defense that is much maligned after the offense seemingly carries most of the weight.
This whole team has something to prove. And dammit I think they might just do it.
"I've been bleeding orange for much longer than social media has been around."
-- Scott Porter
It's because of these things that I just couldn't stay at home this time. As an adult, I am starting to realize that your favorite sports team making five Super Bowl appearances in 11 years is not the norm. It's a rarity for your team to make it to the pinnacle of success, and rarer still for you, as a fan, to actually witness it in person.
It's why I was at the Super Bowl last year, having gotten tickets the day that Peyton came to town, just in case. It's why I've had a line on my seats for this Super Bowl since August. I want to be there for my team in the NOW. I want to experience this moment in person. I want to sit in the stands and yell "In-com-plete" even though we're not at home. I want to be there for this historic moment.
Win or lose.
I believe in my team. I will never waiver. I've been through the worst. I've been through the best. Broncos fans, you get me.
So let's all say it together out loud, because despite the twitter hashtag origin, it has a nice ring to it.
UNITED IN ORANGE!
*- Scott Porter played Jason Street in "Friday Night Lights." He can currently be seen in "Hart of Dixie" on The CW.