I wrote this a couple years ago and for some reason never published it.
While I've come to appreciate and love Peyton Manning (I even have his jersey) it still isn't the same. Don't get me wrong, I love winning and I hope we win a Super Bowl with Manning but even if we do I don't know if it will surpass the emotion of that Tebow year.
As the news broke that the Denver Broncos were signing Peyton Manning I could not shake a feeling of sadness. Even as the whole process has played out for the past week a cloud has been forming and in a sensationalistic way seemed to announce impending doom. I know that sounds over the top but it was a feeling I had and a feeling I still have. I couldn't really explain it until now.
I've been a Bronco fan for most of my life. I grew up in the Denver metro area where the Broncos were revered. We had "Orange Sundays" where we would wear Bronco gear to church. We had Bronco days at my elementary school where we could where the team's colors instead of our normal dress code. In Jr High and High School because of a concern of gang violence our school district prohibited wearing clothing of any professional teams except for the Broncos. Sunday's in Denver revolved around the Broncos and the rest of the week was the build up to kickoff.
There are several moments in the Bronco's history that I can remember clearly. The earliest memory I have of the Broncos is watching the 1986 AFC Championship game which featured "The Drive." I don't remember a lot but I do remember thinking it must not be that much fun to be muddy and to have to kick a field goal with a bare foot in the cold. I remember going to my uncle's apartment to watch the Super Bowl that year and I remember that not everyone there was upset. I later found out how traitorous it was that my aunt and uncle were L.A. Raider fans living in Denver.
The most exciting moment without a doubt is when John Mobley knocked down Brett Favre's pass on fourth down to seal the Bronco's first Super Bowl victory. I was in my first year of college so I wasn't in Denver but rather at a friend's house in Creston Iowa. Thankfully my best friend from childhood was also there and we had to be careful jumping up and down because the ceilings in the basement were so low.
The next moment as a Bronco fan that I can remember being as close to exciting was not the Super Bowl victory the next year but rather a collection of moments when the Broncos and Tim Tebow played the Chicago Bears this past year. It was a string of miracle occurrences that just do not happen. From a onside kick, to a player running out of bounds, to a fumble in overtime topped off by two fifty plus yard field goals. Even though he didn't kick it, when that game winning field goal went through those uprights I was hooked on Tebow for life. Those moments would only be surpassed by the overtime touchdown pass against the Steelers where I would again find myself jumping up and down.
I think the reason I'm not as thrilled with the signing of Manning is because I was really looking forward to going through a career with a once in a lifetime player - a franchise player. I remember having a conversation with a friend this past year and we were rehashing all the highlights and improbable victories and the media attention and I said to him - "and he's all ours."
Tim Tebow was ours. He was a star. He was a phenom. He was a national story. He was a weekly trending topic on Twitter - and he was ours. I loved being able to cheer him on with my kids. I knew I could point them to a role model who was not just exciting to watch but was about more than football. I dreamed of the years down the road where my son and I with our Tebow jerseys on would sit down together and watch our quarterback win games.
And here lies the dichotomy between Tebow and Manning. For all of Manning's greatness and even if he brings multiple Super Bowls to Denver he will never truly be ours. There is a special kind of loyalty that fans give to certain players. This kind of loyalty isn't given very often and in today's age of free agency is rarer. You don't often see fans give away their hearts to players but you saw it happen with Elway. And amazingly in just this short time you saw it happen with Tim Tebow.
I gave my heart to Tebow and the Broncos ripped it out of my hands.