Eugene Pacheco rose early Sunday morning at his home in central Colorado Springs to begin a sad task. It was bone-chillingly cold. Didn’t matter to Eugene. He had important work to do.
He walked outside and removed the orange-and-blue lights that lined his home. He had planned to keep them burning every night until Feb. 3, when he expected the Broncos to reign as NFL champions.
“Oh, I was just so upset with them,” Pacheco said. “This is so upsetting. Everything was in place for us.”
I realize football is just a game. The Broncos 38-35 double-overtime loss to the Ravens should not have delivered immense impact to the lives of most Colorado residents.
But it did.
Pacheco, 47, is an unapologetically extreme Broncos devotee. He plans to be buried in an orange suit and wants everyone attending his funeral to be sure to wear orange, too.
He sets off bottle rockets in his backyard after every Denver touchdown. He watched the game Saturday alongside his father, Zenon, and he sprinted into the backyard after all of the Broncos' five scores. He planned for a final fireworks extravaganza following the Broncos' victory.
On a sad Sunday, he spent several moments looking at those unused bottle rockets, a reminder of one of the most devastating losses in Broncos history.
It might have been the most devastating loss.
“For me, it was the worst,” Pacheco said. “Because of the expectations, the 11-game winning streak. We had worked over Baltimore before.”
The idea of devoting your heart to a sports team makes no sense. It is utterly – and wonderfully – illogical.
Why allow a collection of players you have never met to put a dent in your heart? Why sit in front of a television screen watching a game played hundreds of miles away while shouting mean words to the bad guys who oppose the team you adore? (They can’t hear you.)
I don’t know.
But part of what joins many of us together is our collective defiance of logic. I grew up in Denver in a home packed with Broncos freaks. I no longer mourn when the Broncos lose. For one thing, it would be unprofessional.
My family still suffers.
My brother spent much of Sunday morning moaning. I didn’t even need to ask him why. He had sat in the south stands at Mile High Saturday, braving the threat of frostbite while fully expecting the Broncos to roar to victory. He was in full mourning on Sunday.
I talked with my sister by phone. I ask, as I always do, how she was doing.
“Still struggling,” she said. “Still struggling.”
Again, I didn’t even need to ask why. Her favorite team had been conquered by an inferior opponent.
I spoke with Pacheco for 15 minutes, and most of the conversation concerned his shock. A house in the central Springs will be dark tonight, and Pachecho had believed it would glow blue-and-orange for weeks.
A defeat ruined his weekend. This defeat ruined several million weekends.
Pacheco’s devotion was shaken, but not vanquished.
“I’m really excited about next year,” he said.
Of course he is.