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Gazette Premium Content Klee: NFL deserves a penalty flag for Joe Flacco flags at Mile High

3 photos photo - DENVER, CO-August, 2013: The NFL promotes both teams for its Annual Kickoff Game, the league put up signage of both the Ravens and Broncos around Sports Authority Field at Mile High and downtown Denver, August 27, 2013. Along with a large posters of Peyton Manning hangs a  poster of Joe Flacco on the south side of the stadium.(Photo By RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post) + caption
DENVER, CO-August, 2013: The NFL promotes both teams for its Annual Kickoff Game, the league put up signage of both the Ravens and Broncos around Sports Authority Field at Mile High and downtown Denver, August 27, 2013. Along with a large posters of Peyton Manning hangs a poster of Joe Flacco on the south side of the stadium.(Photo By RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)
By Paul Klee Updated: August 28, 2013 at 11:59 am

DENVER - Hey, remember that time Colorado suffered through the most painful loss in Broncos history?

In January, the Ravens delivered a roundhouse kick to our gut.

This week, the NFL slapped us across the face and told us to like it.

Have you seen this nonsense flapping in the breeze on the south side of Sports Authority Field at Mile High?

There's a banner of the Ravens quarterback hanging from the Broncos' stadium.

"I haven't seen it," John Fox said Tuesday.

You will, coach. Joe Flacco's head is the size of old McNichols. His image stretches from the second concourse all the way to the top, just below the white Bronco above the scoreboard.

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Even the white Bronco is bucking mad.

What, a Tim Brown statue wasn't available?

At the entrance gates on game night, stadium security will distribute clear bags to enforce the NFL's new bag policy.

Here's a better idea: Barf bags.

I walked to the base of the banner Tuesday. After the initial shock, I put in calls to the NFL, then to my psychiatrist.

Tell me again why there's a Raven on the Broncos' stadium?

"This is something, really, representing the two teams in the Kickoff Game. It's something we do each year," NFL vice president of marketing Peter O'Reilly told me.

"This is that special game that starts the year - similar to how we treat a Super Bowl at the end of the year, representing those two teams. This year with the Super Bowl champs against the Broncos, we represent those two teams."

One problem: this isn't a Super Bowl on a neutral field. Last time I checked, this is a Broncos home game. And this banner stinks like rotten crab cakes.

What's next? Philip Rivers in the Ring of Fame? Season tickets for Mark Brunell?

The Black Hole in the South Stands?

Too soon, NFL. We know next Thursday is your big night, the annual Kickoff Game that opens the season with a pageant of bright lights, bright stars and questionable pop music.

This time it's Broncos-Ravens. The game is being played in Denver, instead of the deserving home of the Super Bowl champs, since the Orioles have a home game across the street. The Ravens and Orioles share the same dumpy neighborhood, and parking.

All four entities - the NFL, MLB, Orioles and Ravens - were involved in discussions to reach a compromise with the scheduling conflict, O'Reilly said.

Baseball wouldn't budge.

So the Ravens are on the road, the first time in a decade the defending champ won't host the Kickoff Game. Defending champs are 8-1 in that stretch.

The obvious question: If this game were being played in Baltimore, would we see a banner of Peyton Manning on the side of M&T Bank Stadium?

"We definitely would have it across the city," O'Reilly said.

But not on the Ravens' stadium.

Flacco flags are across the city of Denver, too. They're hanging on light poles up and down 16th Street Mall.

And on the Broncos' stadium.

Sorry, not sorry. The city of Baltimore's poor planning shouldn't be Denver's problem.

Trespassing? This Flacco flag is a football felony.

"The banner's on Mile High?" running back Knowshon Moreno said Tuesday when I asked him for a player's opinion.

Yes, on Mile High. Now imagine the NCAA hanging a "Roll Tide!" poster at the football home of your beloved Georgia Bulldogs.

"That would be weird," Moreno said. "I mean . yeah, that would be weird."

If this were any other opponent, another time, eight months after any other loss, perhaps Colorado might stomach another team's quarterback on its stadium.

Shoot, Colorado is cool with anything. We've welcomed half of California into our state. Denver has streets named after Wyoming, Utah, even Kentucky.

Up in Greeley, Broncos sack king Simon Fletcher serves barbecue, Texas-style.

We have a California Pizza Kitchen like everybody else.

Our Super Bowl quarterback, John Elway, married a former Raiders cheerleader.

Grudges? We're too chilled out to hold a grudge, man.

But a Raven draped over the Broncos' stadium? Too much, too soon. The scab was just beginning to harden when the NFL ripped off the Band-Aid.

"I heard about it," Charlie Miller said. "Is it as bad as it sounds?"

Charlie has owned Broncos season tickets for 20 years. He wears a tool belt to work. He sits in the South Stands. He was there for the Mile High Mistake on Jan. 12.

"I understand they're trying to market all of the NFL and make everybody happy. I get that," Charlie said. "But just leave the Broncos stuff on our own stadium, for God's sake."

Say it ain't so, Joe.

But don't blame Flacco. For a 28-year-old who just signed a $120-million contract, the Ravens quarterback seems pleasant and normal and utterly boring.

I would buy him a beer, but he might order a glass of milk.

If we were Facebook friends, I would tag him as Joe Cool.

Now with all due respect, Joe, allow me to speak for all of Broncos Country:

I'd rather welcome the other half of California than see your mug on the side of Mile High.

Bring on the NFL season.

Bring down the banner.

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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