A man goes for a Sunday walk with his dog and refuses to return to his TV set.
A woman steps into the sunshine to rake leaves and declines to again bother watching the team she adores.
Thousands – and thousands – of fans who paid good money for tickets to watch the Broncos and Bengals depart Mile High Stadium before the fourth quarter.
What are you going to do? Will you, too, abandon the Broncos?
For nearly all of you, the answer is no. The bond is too strong to be broken, even by six straight losses.
The Broncos are currently the most afflicted pro franchise in Colorado. The Rockies returned, briefly, to the playoffs. The Nuggets look on their way to a winning record and postseason. The Avs are on the rise.
But the Broncos, even at their worst, remain the most filled with drama, and Sunday’s game, despite all the struggles of the past six games, is jammed with storylines.
A third starting quarterback, Paxton Lynch, will be given a chance to revive a slumbering offense. And the Broncos face the Raiders, their ancient rival who soon will leave their traditional tattered home in Oakland for a glitzy palace in Vegas.
Face it: You hate the Raiders too much to miss this game.
After the Broncos' loss to the Bengals – a loss that wasn’t certain until the final minute – I heard from friends and family who had given up on the game at halftime. I sat in the stadium in the fourth quarter of a dramatic game looking at an ocean of empty seats.
The good times are over, but the bond remains strong. For four seasons (2012-2015), the Broncos were mighty. Last season Broncos fans suffered through underachieving.
Now, the Broncos are rebuilding, which is another way of saying the Broncos are bad.
Late Sunday, Bill Musgrave replaced Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator. Musgrave grew up in Grand Junction. He understands the bond between team and state. He also understands the depth of the current disaster.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Musgrave said. “That’s the understatement of the year.”
Linebacker Brandon Marshall has accepted the truth. The Broncos will fail to make the playoffs.
The Broncos – Super Bowl champs 21 months ago – are tumbling.
“Guess what goes up must come down,” Marshall said.
Marshall paused as he thought about recent visitors to the Air Force Academy.
“Except the Patriots,” Marshall said with a pained laugh. “They keep going up.”
On Sunday, Marshall saw the empty seats and heard the booing. At times, he wondered if he had wandered into the wrong stadium.
Marshall arrived in Colorado in 2013. He arrived at precisely the right time. Peyton Manning was running the offense, and we use the word “running” literally. Mike McCoy was the offensive coordinator, but Manning was the true boss.
From 2012-2015, the Broncos won 49 regular-season games, led the NFL in scoring in 2013, traveled to the Super Bowl twice and ruled the NFL once. Buying a ticket became a daunting and wallet-emptying challenge.
Marshall spent the 2012 season in Jacksonville. At the time, attending Jaguars games was a strange experience. Jags fans were few. Visiting fans were many.
Sunday was the first time the stadium on the edge of downtown Denver sounded like the stadium on the edge of the water at Jacksonville.
“It was, like, wow,” Marshall said. “This kind of reminds me of Jacksonville.”
Those are strong words, but those are accurate words.
Marshall shoulders his share of the blame. He’s not criticizing fans. He understands the confusion and the pain and the quiet.
“We got to give the crowd something to cheer for,” Marshall said. “We’re not putting the product out on the field that will make them want to get out of their seats.”
Seats at the stadium are not the only seats filled by Bronco fans. Millions of fans faithfully inhabit seats in living rooms and bars. Friends gather all over Colorado to watch big TVs. They once watched their heroes struggle for NFL supremacy.
Last week, those fans were walking dogs and raking leaves and wondering when the Broncos will awaken from surprising, disturbing and draining slumber.
Today, nearly all of those disgruntled fans will return to the TV set, at least for a quarter or two, to watch a really tall young quarterback lead a battered team against men in black.