Published: February 3, 2014
Sunday night was a mournful one for dyed-in-the-wool Denver Broncos fans.
Although stunned by initial setbacks, fans thought the Broncos would make a comeback and win. By the third quarter they weren't so sure, and by the fourth, well, it was over.
Luckily for many Colorado Springs Super Bowl partygoers, the game was more about food and friends than the score.
Susan Quirk and her husband chose to watch the game at The Pinery at the Hill because they were looking to mingle with "serious football fans" who appreciated a "high class team" such as the Broncos, she said.
"It took a fair amount of money to get in here," said Quirk, who isn't so much a Broncos fan as she is a fan of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
"Peyton is an American hero," she said, adding that she met his mother at an out-of-state wedding a couple of years ago.
Partygoers at The Pinery dined on a gourmet spread that included garlic fries with sriracha aioli, Swedish meatballs and Parmesan peppercorn artichoke spinach dip with crudites and artisan bread.
The smell of hot wings wafted through the air as they lounged in leather chairs and swirled glasses of wine.
Among them was die-hard Broncos fan and season ticket holder Dave Smedsrud, who was about as rowdy as they came at the venue.
Every time the Broncos advanced, Smedsrud hollered and shook a bell-shaped noise maker given to attendees of a recent Broncos game.
Things weren't looking good for the Broncos, even in the first quarter.
But Smedsruds' optimism and loyalty were steadfast.
"They're going to win this," he said. "They're going to pull this off. They will."
The crowd was more rambunctious at Holy Cow Pub and Grill, where tiki torches surrounded the bar and Broncos-themed beer towers topped many a table.
There were blue and orange layered Jello shots to take, and raffles to enter for a trip to Las Vegas or a grill.
Royal Canadian Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Peddle was concerned with none of it.
His sole focus: cheering the Broncos to victory.
Peddle and his wife, Linda Peddle, have been stationed in Colorado for the past two years. Their romance with the Broncos developed swiftly.
After being transferred to NORAD, Peddle said he couldn't seem to escape Broncos merchandise at every shop he went to.
And his wife quickly realized how handsome Manning is.
"If you can't beat them, join them, right?" the sailor said with a grin.
Manning is "cute, but also very humble," Linda Peddle said. "We're Broncos fans now, and we're going to be fans from here on forward."
There wasn't a drop of alcohol to be found at Victory Outreach's Super Bowl party, held at STAR Academy, where the church meets.
Keeping the party dry was important because of those in attendance: kids and recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, said Mike Hassler, a volunteer who leads the church's men's rehab program.
Sunday evening's party gave program participants "a different perspective on life," Hassler said.
"As drug addicts, they think they have to get loaded to have fun," he said. "This gives them the experience - some of them for the first time in their lives - that they can have fun and enjoy this sober."
As he spoke shortly after halftime, things were looking dismal for the Broncos.
No matter, Hassler said.
"It's not about the score," he said. "It's about having fun together as a family."
Parker Schiffer didn't feel that way.
The Colorado College student moped near Phantom Canyon's bar Sunday night after the game.
"I'm more shocked than sad," said Schiffer, who became a Broncos fan after moving from Texas to Colorado to attend school. "It's difficult to see them play this way."
His plans for the rest of the night?
"I have homework to do," he said. "I'm sure there's going to be a lot of drinking the pain away. If I could afford to, I would."
As football fans vacated the downtown Old Chicago, Colorado College student Kai Thompson sat quietly and stared at his table.
The game "started downhill and went further downhill from there," said Thompson, who became a Broncos fan when he moved from Minnesota to Colorado to attend school.
"It was like a nightmare you couldn't wake up from."