I’m a huge Denver Broncos fan…anyone who saw the massacre that was Super Bowl 48 can guess how I’m feeling this week. It was a disaster, one of the worst blowout losses in Super Bowl history. But, it wasn’t the worst Super Bowl blowout loss in Denver Broncos history. Nope, that would be the 55-10 debacle we Denver fans suffered through after the 1989 season at the hands of the Joe Montana-led 49ers. In fact, Denver has now lost an NFL-record FIVE Super Bowls, all of them by AT LEAST 17 POINTS! Save for two glorious years in the late 90’s when the team won back-to-back Super Bowl titles, Denver has been beyond horrid in the big game. Here’s the ugly rundown:
1978: Dallas 27, Denver 10
1987: New York 39, Denver 20
1988: Washington 42, Denver 10
1990: San Francisco 55, Denver 10
1998: Denver 31, Green Bay 24
1999: Denver 34, Atlanta 19
2014: Seattle 43, Denver 8
So there you go. Two great years, five years of utter futility. And I realize there are teams that have NEVER won the Super Bowl, but there’s a special kind of sports agony that goes along with GETTING to the big game, only to be completely destroyed in it. I’m not talking about close games we lost but could still be proud of. No, these were all laughers, games that looked like a professional team was playing a group of neighborhood children.
In the late 80’s, the Broncos went to three Super Bowls in four years. The road TO the Super Bowl was always exciting. These were the years of Elway miracles — The Drive, The Drive II, and more unnamed-but-still-spectacular last-minute heroics than I could count. The first year we got to the big game, we were excited. The next time we got there we were excited, but a little nervous. By the time we got back the THIRD time, a fairly large percentage of the fan base simply faced the day with dread. But we still watched, we still rooted, we had our hearts broken, we healed, and we came back the next year rooting for another chance.
Our chance came again in ’98, and when we finally broke through the long history of futility, the feeling was pure magic. When we won again the next year (in dominating fashion, for once playing the role of top dog instead of victim), I thought “OK, we’re done with that history of failure now.” I didn’t figure we’d win it every year thereafter, or never lose another Super Bowl. But I figured we were done with the massacres. And then…Sunday happened.
Peaks and valleys
Diabetes is not the San Francisco 49ers of the 80’s, a team that just never lost. Four Super Bowl appearances, four Super Bowl wins. They were in it every year. They were consistent, they were talented. They had a great offense, a great defense, a great coach with an innovative offensive game plan that was light years ahead of its time. They had a running game that you could count on to produce, and a passing game led by Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, probably the greatest passing duo in the history of the game.
Diabetes is the Denver Broncos — all over the place. Wildly successful one minute, utterly dismantled the next. High peaks and deep valleys. Right when you think, “OK, I know how this will play out,” something changes and you’re confused again. I always envied 49er fans and how EASY it must have been to root for that team. But it took CHARACTER and a lot of resilience to root for the Broncos, year and after year. I’m proud of my fandom, even more so because it’s not all sunshine and roses.
That agonizing allegiance to my Denver Broncos mirrors my relationship to diabetes. Diabetes takes character, too. Diabetes takes resilience. We have to be able to recover from bad news, a stretch of bad numbers. We have to be able to move on and try again, and again, and again, and again…and we know we won’t always get the results we think we SHOULD. We know that things will change — a string of great numbers won’t last forever; SOMETHING will come along and throw a kink in them. Bad numbers won’t last forever, either. And we can’t give up, even when it feels like nothing we’re doing will work.
So there you have it. We’ll all keep chipping away at this thing called diabetes. And as for me, well, I’ll hang my Broncos shirt in the closet while I lick my wounds. But I’ll be wearing it again soon enough. I’ll be rooting for the team again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. You just don’t give up on your team.