Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
“How’s that ‘Chump’ Bailey?” Uncle John, who lives in Kansas City, had been asking Roy for days.
It was four years ago, and we were in Kansas during the 2006 Thanksgiving Day game between the rival Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, the biggest weekend for Arrowhead Stadium since it opened in 1972. Among the 80,000 packing the stands were my sons’ three Kansas cousins.
Roy, now 14, has been a football fanatic since he was 7; in fact, it was probably his burning interest in football that brought him out of onetime shyness. (The only trouble was, he would approach other kids and talk about it in great bursts, with no preamble.)
In the evening Mike and I and our boys settled down to watch the game on television with John, who was pointedly exalting the Chiefs’ running back Larry Johnson.
In the fourth quarter the game turned into a defensive battle, and when Kansas reclaimed the ball, Roy’s face was so thunderstruck that even John, glancing over, said nothing.
Denver lost 10-19. Roy stood, walked upstairs without a word, and went to bed.
My historic interest in football has been minimal. I never went to one game in college. Football culture and identification with a pro team are foreign to me.
But both my sons play, we parents attend their games, and I find myself, at least in the sports pages, following the Broncos’ fortunes. John’s oldest son, Matt, a lifelong sports fan, attends every single Chiefs game.
He and his girlfriend, Whitney, flew to Denver for the recent Broncos-Chiefs match. And Matt secured extra tickets.
At first there were two such tickets, then four-preventing, as Mike put it, a “fight to the death” as to which son he could take. And I was going, too, though Roy dubbed me a waste of a ticket. All three forbade me to bring along a book.
The night before we drove to Denver, Roy carefully laid out his Eddie Royal jersey, and the next day he, Mike and Teddy all donned blue Broncos hats. Mike packed a down jacket in team orange.
Roy had been concerned about my attire until I said I was wearing my white puffy with an orange hat and blue pants. I added orange earrings, which I thought was a nice touch.
“Mom, you have to chant and you have to cheer,” Roy instructed me.
We located Matt at a pre-game party, from which he emerged in red Chiefs jersey and red-and-white ball cap and pants, but we barely stayed, because Roy wanted to watch team warm-ups, hurrying ahead of us to the stadium.
“Mom, there’s Demaryius!” said Teddy, as we sat.
Demaryius Thomas, steadfast and honorable survivor of a childhood in which his mother and grandmother were taken away to jail for selling drugs, is my favorite Bronco.
Matt and Whitney arrived at game time to seats two rows below.
Teddy called through cupped hands, “You’re goin’ down, Matt.”
The boys were ebullient and intent, and I enjoyed the people and the pageantry, in which paragliders landed swiftly on the field and a bomber flew low over us, fireworks flew, and a horseback rider galloped around the field.
I knew from our team’s record this season to expect little, but, astonishingly, the Broncos were up from the start, winning 49-29.
And I thrilled to the athleticism of Kyle Orton drilling it where he wanted it, Jason Hunter scooping the ball from the ground for a 75-yard touchdown run, and an impossible catch by Brandon Lloyd.
Upon a dispute, the crowd roared to see the Jumbotron replay show his feet in bounds.
At each touchdown the boys called down to Matt and waved. Their cousin kept his composure, but his waves became fairly sickly, and eventually we noticed he had quietly left.
The teams will soon meet again, in Kansas City. When the boys emailed their thanks to Matt, he replied, “You’re welcome, glad you enjoyed it. Denver will lose in Arrowhead.”
– Alison Osius lives in Carbondale.
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Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras lamented his department’s inability to maintain a constant presence downtown during a virtual public forum Monday night.