January 30, 2014 Updated: January 30, 2014 at 7:32 pm
Bradley Abeyta of Colorado Springs is going to the Super Bowl.
And to tell the truth, he's a little bummed about it.
You see, he and his father RayAbeyta attended the 1999 championship game together in Miami where John Elway and the Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-19. Bradley was only 19 at the time.
"Being there with my dad was the greatest moment of my life," he says. "I wanted to be able to take him this time. He's my best friend."
But Ray can't go.
He is assistant varsity coach and junior varsity head coach for the girls' basketball teams at Palmer High School. They have big games Saturday against arch rival Doherty High School.
Instead, Bradley is going with his cousin Eric Smith.
Bradley, who is an account manager for an engineering company, is taking along his good luck charms: the tickets he still has from the 1999 game, a Bronco's watch his mother, the late Pamela Abeya, gave him. And of course he will be wearing a Bronco shirt.
"I've got jerseys of most of the players, but I think I will go with Number 88, Demaryius Thomas. I met him once in Denver."
The Abeytas' journey as fanatic Bronco fans has been serendipitous to say the least, and is an intimate look at how fate and football games can collide.
Ray Abeyta, who once wrote sports articles for The Gazette and taught math and science for years at Irving Middle School, won tickets to the 1999 Super Bowl in a very involved 98.1 radio station contest at a bar.
Ray recalls he was attracted to the bar not by the contest, but by the advertised 98 cent chicken wings. It happened to be the last night of the contest, which had been going on for a month. That night, in a basketball shoot contest, he made a free throw basket, and thus was the last fan eligible to join about 75 others for a drawing. He drew an orange football, which moved him on to the finals. The 15 finalists were handed envelopes containing a number and told not to open them. The DJs then played a game of pool. The last pool ball left on the table would be the winning number.
But Abeya had wandered away to eat the 98 cent chicken wings. He heard someone say that they were going to start another pool game because the winner had not come forward. Abeya hurried over. His was the last envelope. It was No. 8., matching the last pool ball on the table.
"The Super Bowl was exciting," Ray said. "Eric Singer went up and down the aisles asking if anyone was from Southern Colorado, and he interviewed us. I still have the tape."
Ray notes that it wasn't their only adventure. They also attended a World Series game, the Stanley Cup finals, and a Yankee baseball game in New York in 2001.
"We were going to be there for the baseball game from Friday to Tuesday, but found out the Broncos were playing on a Monday night for the first time ever at Invesco Field. So we changed our flight and came back Monday morning so we could see the game. The next day, when we should have been flying back was Sept. 11, 2001. And you know what happened on that day."
The "I love New York" T-shirts Ray had purchased that weekend, just happened to be emblazoned with the New York skyline and the Twin Towers."
Now move forward to September, 2013. Ray and Bradley attended the so-called Manning Bowl in New Jersey when Peyton Manning beat his brother quarterback Eli Manning of the Giants.
"We told all the Giants fans around us to save our seats because we would be back in February," Bradley said.
About a month ago, Bradley bought a couple tickets to New York City as a birthday gift for his friend Heather Mann who wanted to celebrate in New York City. A Denver girlfriend of hers was coming along, too. The round trip tickets were $240 each.
Meanwhile, the Broncos won the AFC title. A friend who had connections with the Broncos was able to get Bradley two tickets for the face value of $1,200 each. They paid only $320 a ticket at face value back in 1999.
So, Bradley invited his cousin. They have a family friend who has a second home in Union City, New Jersey about 10 minutes from the stadium. They will stay there, probably for free.
"I'll wish I was there," Ray says. "But I'm glad my son will carry on the tradition for us. It's all in the family."
Contact Carol McGraw: 636-0371. Twitter @mcgrawatgazette Facebook: Carol McGraw