By Gareth Murtagh
I’d been following Channel 4’s NFL coverage for over a year when I was lucky enough late one Sunday night, to watch John Elway lead the Broncos on what everyone now calls The Drive. Right then I decided that this was the player and the team I wanted to support. For the first few years it sadly meant having to endure Super Bowl disappointments and having to endure a walk of shame past all the other NFL fans in my class.
In those days the only NFL on TV was Channel 4’s weekly highlights show and live coverage of the playoffs and Super Bowl. The first you knew of the Sunday results was when you checked Ceefax on Monday morning, if you were lucky you could hear a game on US Armed Forces Radio on the Sunday night if the reception was good enough, a far cry from the modern coverage with streaming and apps so that you can follow a game even when not at home.
The lowest point for me was not any of the Super Bowl losses but losing at home to Jacksonville in a Divisional Playoff in 1997, we’d gone 13-3 and were favourites for the Super Bowl but were upset by a very good Jaguars team. I really felt then that we were never destined to win a Championship, the following season started well but we then suffered a bad run and only got into the playoffs as a Wild Card meaning we had to go and win in Kansas City and Pittsburgh to get to Super Bowl 32. Watching that game was one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my life, hoping at the start that we just didn’t get blown out again to being absolutely delighted when John Mobley broke up that pass on 4th Down to seal the win. The look on Elway’s face after the game just sums up how I and every Broncos fan felt right then, we were no longer chokers but champions. That’s why the loss in SB48 was more bearable than the others, I knew we’d get another chance again and we didn’t have too long to wait!
I’ll have been a fan for 30 years in January, it’s been a roller coaster with plenty of highs and lows, usually in the early hours of the morning but I’ve never once regretted being a Bronco. I’ve been lucky enough to attend an NFL game in the USA when my brother, who lives in Virginia, got us tickets to a Redskins-Cowboys game in December 2001, it was a fantastic experience and one day I hope to make it to Mile High and see the Broncos for real as well as those 3 Lombardi’s. Hopefully by then there’ll be a few more in the collection!