A sea of orange filled up the 16th Street Mall. Denver finally had its super bowl championship. Despite all of the nay saying, they accomplished the improbable, upsetting the overwhelming favorites. I’ve been sports fan most of my life, and when your team wins it all, it’s an amazing feeling. But this moment was different than growing up in St. Louis, rooting for the home team. Because professional teams from the western states don’t just represent one city, but rather an entire region, and you could feel that regional pride and excitement.
On the radio, announcers frequently refer to “Broncos country”, not just the city of Denver. In talking to friends from around the state of Colorado, everyone is passionate about their allegiance to our team. And it’s not just in Colorado. The next closest professional football team is 820 miles away in Phoenix, AZ, and they didn’t even have a team until about 25 years ago. Broncos fans run far and wide, from New Mexico to western Kansas, from Nebraska to Wyoming to Utah. One of Bryon’s closest friends is from western Iowa, and he sent us a picture of his two little boys probably donning their bright orange jerseys for Super Bowl Sunday. As I taught skiing at one of the mountain resorts earlier in the day Sunday, orange was the color of the day on the ski slopes as well, with people donning jerseys, jackets and hats in support of our mountain team.
As I mused on this team coming from the mile high city, I couldn’t help but wondered if the location of the team didn’t provide a little extra assistance in their quest for victory. While watching the game, I kept seeing Panther players breathing heavy on the sidelines, straining to catch their breath. In the analysis today of the whys of how the Denver defense pulled off such a victory, Panther players kept referring to how fast and explosive the Denver defensive players were. Could training and playing at that mile-high altitude have provided a little extra?
I’m not much of a runner, but occasionally I will enter foot races as an incentive to get me in shape. One of the largest and most famous running races is San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers 12k race. Bryon and I ran in the race about 5 years ago, and found that we posted our best personal times ever, and the running seemed effortless. Training and living at higher altitudes and then competing at sea level seems almost unfair. That air seems so thick and it’s just that much easier to push yourself to the limit, without suffering near as much.
Perhaps the vaunted Denver defense found the San Francisco locale to provide the optimal environment to put on a performance of a lifetime. It sure seemed that way by the level of play. Whatever the reasons, an entire region of the American west now can celebrate a championship – woo hoo!