“Bronco Day,” The ’97 Season, and Growing Up a Steelers Fan in Denver
Act III: My Soul Is Crushed
I don’t think I need to remind anyone about how that Championship game ended do I? I can still see Shannon Sharpe icing the game with the crucial first down, and John Elway grinning from ear to ear after the win. In fact, I might let out a technicolor yawn if I ever see the final images from that game again and the love-fest given to Elway that afternoon in the post-game, but that’s for another article.
I was disgusted beyond all belief because Steelers blew a golden opportunity, and like so many times during the Cowher years, the team was out-coached, out-played, and out-foxed by an inferior foe. That was probably the thing which hurt the most for me, and still is a reason why I will Tomlin is a far superior Coach than Cowher: he beats teams he is supposed to on a more consistent basis.
It was bad enough that Pittsburgh was expected to win, it was bad enough that they were heavy favorites and were playing a team that they had dispatched no more than two months before, but it was truly horrific that this was just one of the numerous times that (’94, ’97, ’01,’04) the Steelers dropped a cake-easy A.F.C. Championship opportunity at home.
“Bronco Day” Draws My Ire:
Watching the loss in the city of the victors was terrible enough for me, but what my school did after the win and leading up to the Super Bowl felt like they were unintentionally/intentionally rubbing salt in my metaphorical wounds. The following week, my elementary school put on a thing called “Bronco Day.” For those of you that need explanation, “Bronco Day” was the day where students were encouraged to wear Broncos gear and support their “hometown” team that was in the Super Bowl. To me, this was the last straw, and I almost lost my mind over this farcical garbage!
“Bronco Day?!” Hmm, I certainly don’t remember you guys putting one on during Wade Phillips’ 7-9 last season, or the 1995 season that saw Denver finish with at 8-8, or the week after the Broncos dropped a home playoff game to Jacksonville in ’96? Why the “Bronco Day” now? You didn’t have a “Bronco Day” when scrubby Aaron Craver, Leonard Russell, and Rod Bernstine were toting the rock? Shouldn’t every day during football season be “Bronco Day” if you all are such die-hard fans? Hell I could have gone on and on exposing these frauds, but since nobody wanted to hear the ramblings of a 10 year old that knew blatant hypocrisy when he saw it, I kept my mouth shut.
(Interesting fact, we had “Bronco Day” the following year because Denver won their 2nd Super Bowl, but for the final 4 years I lived in Colorado, the schools I attended never had a “Bronco Day.” Maybe it was because the Broncos only made the postseason once from ’99-’02 and have recorded only 1 postseason win since Super Bowl XXXIII, but I digress.)
As livid as I was, I did the only thing a card-carrying member of Steeler Nation could do at 10 years old: put on my Slash jersey, my Steelers sweatshirt, take the verbal abuse if it came my way, hope the students and faculty wouldn’t get under my skin too much, and hope that Denver’s success would be short lived. I wore my Steelers gear proudly on “Bronco Day,” just like I had worn it before the Loss and just like I have every time I have donned it since: with pride. My Mom and I just hoped Green Bay would dispatch Denver in the Super Bowl and all the craziness would go away.
Unfortunately for my Mom and I, Denver gone on to win Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII while we lived there and we had to bear witness to all the ridiculousness that came along with Broncos fans enjoying the success. Moreover, we had to listen to ill-conceived and homer arguments such as: “Terrell Davis belongs in the Hall of Fame…etc.”
It got so bad for me, that to this day I can’t even listen to John Elway’s, Shannon Sharpe’s, or Radio Broadcaster Dave Logan’s voice without wanting to hit myself in the ears with a tack hammer. Thankfully for us though, Denver made the Postseason only once for the rest of the time we lived there, and their success has been short-lived ever since.