January 25, 1998 is a day I will remember for the rest of my life. That’s the day the Denver Broncos beat the 11-point favorite Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. After watching the Broncos get trounced in four previous title games, Super Bowl XXXII was a cathartic experience. It literally brought tears to my eyes. I was 26 years old at the time.
Like most people, my life long obsession with sports started young. My earliest sports memory was when I was six. We were an army family stationed in Hawaii and my dad, a Colorado native, was excited about Super Bowl XII. I didn’t really watch the game, just my father as I’d never seen him so excited. My dad’s excitement didn’t last long however as his enthusiasm and the Broncos chances of victory gradually evaporated as the game progressed. Ironically a life long Denver fan (me) was created that day.
As a Broncos follower I remember with clarity The Drive, The Fumble, and team owner and future Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen proclaiming, “This one’s for John!” But I loved other sports too. At one point I voraciously followed the NFL, MLB, Premier League soccer, the PGA, college hoops and football, the NBA, college hockey, the NHL, the World Cup and every Olympics. Yes, even the winter ones. I’ve held the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the Commissioners Trophy, have bought countless items of officially licensed sports apparel, and even skipped work to go to three Super Bowl victory parades. I was the quintessential sports nut, but things began to change in recent years.
As I got older, I was following fewer and fewer sports. Major League Baseball and the PGA were the first to go. Then gradually my interests were whittled down to two - college hockey and the Broncos. Life was too busy and sports had to be sacrificed. I had a job, got married and had kids, and developed other interests. There wasn’t time anymore to be fanatical about so many sports. And of course, there’s the emotional wear and tear.
Eventually, you realize that sports are often more painful than they are rewarding. Victories are great but most teams lose almost as much as they win. And even if a team has a good season, unless they win a championship its almost as disappointing whether your team is 12-4 and loses in the playoffs or 3-13 and doesn’t make the playoffs. The pain is still there. So I started to ask, “Why are you torturing yourself?”
It dawned on me recently that I’m doing exactly what Jerry Seinfeld first joked about in 1994. I’m rooting for laundry. I want my team’s clothes to beat the clothes from another city. It doesn’t matter who is wearing them. As much as I like Von Miller, if he were playing for anybody else I wouldn’t be fan of his. I’d probably be booing him, especially if he played for the Raiders or Chiefs. Most athletes aren’t even from the city or region they represent. The Broncos have more foreign born players (two) than players from Colorado (zero). This left me conflicted. Did I waste 40 years of my life following sports? Clarity came when I thought of my dad.
He’s 70 now and while he still follows the Broncos, he doesn’t live or die with every win or loss like he used to. My father is pleased with a victory and accepts defeat because, after all, you can’t win them all. In fact sometimes he rarely even watches Broncos games, he has a full life in retirement. However, he still likes sports. Athletic achievements are something he can still appreciate, no matter the team. I’m now 46 and still enjoy sports and likely always will, but I think I’ll start following my father’s lead. Life’s too short to turn something that should be fun into something dreadful. I’m going to go from being a sports fanatic to just a fan.
Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.