October 12, 2013 Updated: October 12, 2013 at 5:26 pm
DENVER - The best fans in sports are coming to Sports Authority Field on Sunday.
They are fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
They are fans of a team where 0-16 doesn't seem possible; it seems inevitable. They are otherwise-rational people who are helplessly, and hopelessly, devoted to a team that has scored 51 points in five losses.
Last Sunday, Peyton Manning's Broncos scored 51 points in four quarters.
They are fans that see a future where the football world sees futility.
They see the Jags as a 26 1/2-point underdog to the Broncos. Then they board a flight from Florida to Colorado and cheer their Natrone Means jerseys off, anyway.
"We'll be three rows up behind the Jags bench," said Kristin Jennings, a longtime Jacksonville season ticket-holder. "We hope the Broncos fans are nice."
I hope they buy you a cold one.
This is an argument as old as the games we play: Who has the best fans in sports?
Right now? Give me the fans of an NFL team with a better chance to forfeit than win on Sunday. Give me the diehard fans of the Jags, 0-5 and oh-so-proud.
"We have optimism in the darkest days possible," said Brett Barley, a season ticket-holder in Jacksonville.
Their zeal wears teal.
"I got an Andre Rison jersey for my dog," said Ryan Hodgin, a Jags fan living in Denver.
This is no slight to Broncos Country, a fan base that has packed Mile High stadium with 346 straight sellouts. But it's easy to be a Broncos fan.
John Elway and Peyton Manning in the same lifetime? Count your blessings, Colorado.
You've got it good.
Likewise, it's easy to support the Lakers, or the Yankees, or the Red Wings. Your teams win, and often. It's easy to be a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, even if jean shorts tend to tighten after 162 games of hot dogs and see-through beer.
You know what's hard?
This: "I'm flying across the country to see my team lose by 28 points. Maybe more," as Becki Poss, a diehard from Jacksonville, said.
"But you know what? I couldn't miss it. I love them. I love the Jags. I feel like I need to be there."
I have learned Jaguars travel in herds. Jennings, Poss and 50 of their closest friends hopped a flight to New York . to watch their Jags make the No. 2 pick in the draft.
These Jags will rival the 2008 Lions for the ultimate scarlet letter in the NFL: 0-16. A single victory would make this season a victory.
"When we finally do win, it's going to be the ultimate feeling," Hodgin said.
Talking to Jags fans, I expected venom and vitriol.
I got passion and pride.
"We have the privilege of being mad at our team," Barley said. "We feel lucky to be an 0-5 team right now, because we have a team. There's only 32 of them."
Right now, the Jags are the worst team in pro sports. But there is hope, in the minds of their fans, and it starts with owner Shahid Khan.
"The guy can run for governor tomorrow, to be completely honest with you," Barley said. "He's got my vote."
With Manning, these Broncos are the most dominant team in pro sports. Last Sunday, I watched in awe as 92,758 fans piled into the Cowboys' stadium. At least 20,000 - if not more - were loud, proud Broncos fans.
In the heart of Texas, a sea of orange was a sight to behold.
So is this: "You lose to the Raiders. You lose to the Seahawks. You lose to the Rams. That's what everyone else sees," Poss said. "I see improvement."
In the face of futility, these Jags fans do what great fans do. They travel from one corner of the country to the other to watch their Jags lose in Seattle. By four touchdowns.
"We went up to New England (years ago). Talk about bandwagon fans," Poss said. "That's what we don't need in Jacksonville."
"We stink right now. We get it," Jennings added. "But our day's coming."
They will travel to Tennessee. They will travel to Houston.
They paid $222 for Broncos tickets, to see the biggest mismatch in NFL history, according to the Las Vegas sports books. There's never been a spread wider than 28 points.
"It's hard. Sometimes it wears on you," Poss said.
So why do this to yourself?
"For me, I view it as a relationship. You take the good with the bad. It's like a baby brother or a baby sister. I can pick on them. But I dare somebody else to pick on them," Poss said.
"We know the team (stinks). We get that. But we're the ones who cheer that product every Sunday on the field."
Sold-out stadiums and top-selling jerseys don't make for the best fans in sports.
Everybody loves a winner.
But the best fans in sports? They are the diehards who follow the winless, hapless Jags - win or lose. Or lose. Or lose. Or lose again.
"My buddies are like, 'Why are you going to this game? It's going to be a blowout,'" said Hodgin, the Jags fan in Denver.
"Well, you have to support your team. Or what kind of fan are you?"