Broncos' Fans Keep the Faith

Before, during and after the super beatdown of our beloved Broncos at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, a spectrum of Catholic Broncos fans showed perspective, prayerfulness and loyalty.

Without argument, Seahawks handily drubbed the Broncos 43-8 on Feb. 2, in every phase of the game.

Broncos fans whose devotion dates back to the 1980s would be reminded of the team’s three humiliating Super Bowl losses in that era — falling to the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers, each loss becoming more horrific — but we do well to remember that those losses were eventually followed by Super Bowl victories in 1998 and 1999.

Before the game, hopes were predictably high.

Michael Bruner, 7, attended the 10am Latin Novus Ordo Mass at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in downtown Denver with his grandparents and sister. Donning a Peyton Manning jersey, Bruner said he has been a Broncos fan for three years and also predicted a Broncos victory.

Asked why he likes going to Mass, he said, “Because I can talk to God.”

MaryBeth Elder, 19, also attended the Mass at Holy Ghost, wearing a gray Broncos shirt. She said this season has been special, sharing it with her grandfather, whom she called a “huge Broncos fan” and who has a lot of memorabilia of the Broncos’ Hall of Fame quarterback and current executive VP of football operations, John Elway.

Northeast of downtown in the Park Hill neighborhood, parishioners and visitors attended the 11am Mass at Cure d’Ars Catholic Church, a multicultural parish.

Many were sporting Broncos attire, but at least one wore a Seattle Seahawks shirt.

“I feel like wherever you are, you have to support your team,” said Georgeanna Carson, 22, who moved to Denver from Seattle to be near family.

Though Bob Gomez, 63, was clearly representing the Broncos in his bright-orange Manning jersey and orange shoes, his message was a universal one of “peace and goodwill to everybody on the earth.”

“I prayed that the good Lord will make sure that nobody is injured [in the Super Bowl], that we’re able to have a good contest, and that all of us will be blessed,” said Gomez.

Deacon Clarence McDavid, 64, did not wear sports gear, but liturgical vestments. After Mass, he recounted some of the themes he included in his homily.

“What we’re doing is getting so excited about a sports team whose effect is momentary, and  we need to be equally excited about our faith, even more excited — because our faith is not something that’s momentary; it’s lasting; it’s forever,” he said. “Athletes, especially professional athletes, are in pristine condition,” Deacon McDavid added. “Can we say that we’re in pristine condition, as far as our faith?”

Deacon McDavid mentioned the balance he hoped to keep in regard to celebrating the Broncos and keeping his faith in this action, too.


Elder Stateswomen

Less than two hours before kickoff, Helen Reichenbach, 98, commented on what was special about the Broncos team this year.

“They’re fast,” said Reichenbach.

“I love to see them tackle; boy, they tackle. Oh, they’ve got that down pat.”

Reichenbach lives at the Little Sisters of the Poor-Mullen Home for the Aged in the Highlands neighborhood, along with resident Gertrude Nelson, 95.

“If I wasn’t for the Broncos, I might as well leave town,” said Nelson jokingly.

At the nearby Gardens of St. Elizabeth Senior Living Community, Dorothy Tighe, 77, echoed the feeling of excitement that the Broncos had brought to the Denver area. Like Reichenbach and Nelson, she prays for the Broncos.

“I’ve been praying to God that no one would get hurt,” said Tighe, who prayed for both teams. Tighe, along with her dog, Max, joined about 30 other residents and friends in a community room to watch the game.


Family Tradition

At the Knights of Columbus Hall (Council 539) in downtown Denver, families gathered to watch the game or play broomball, bringing a variety of food for the pot-luck supper. Three generations of the Thomason family were in attendance.

Tom Thomason, 41, said growing up in Denver was all about being devoted to “God, Broncos and country,” with the latter two switching places depending on how the team was doing that year.

Tom’s mother, Joan Thomason, 78, expressed her thoughts on being Catholic and a Broncos fan.

“Being Catholic means everything to me. … Being a Broncos fan is part of being a real Denverite — they are Denver, and I am Denver,” said Joan.

Beth Thomason, 39, spoke about the mix of Catholic practice and Broncos devotion.

“It means going to Mass first and prioritizing and having the Broncos be part of your life, but not your life,” she said.

At halftime, with the Broncos down 22-0, Beth’s son, Patrick Thomason, 14, shared his feelings.

“I’m feeling very upset and worried that they might not win this Super Bowl,” he said, but he remained positive about their effort.


Loyalty Lesson

I watched the final quarter of the game at a house party with my friend Jim Laurent, 37, who was also disappointed over the Broncos’ loss but kept things in perspective.

“At the end of the day, God’s still God, and he loves me, and he still even loves the Broncos,” said Laurent.

Kristina Murray, 29, also attended the party and admitted to hopping “on the bandwagon a little bit” by becoming a fan this year. The Connecticut native said she can use lessons from the game in her work in youth ministry in Byers, Colo.

Said Murray, “I think it’s good to have pride in something; you know, it’s good to have pride in our country, pride in teams, but, ultimately, where do we put our foundation and our pride in? — that’s Jesus and Jesus alone.”

Hours earlier, after the Mass at Cure d’Ars, Richard Holmes, 61, offered comments that should serve as a balm to stung Broncos fans. Holmes is the principal of Julia Greeley Academy, a K-5 independent Christian school.

He spoke about how, when the Broncos lose, it gives him “a chance to talk to the kids about the importance of loving your team — win or lose.”

“Knowing that things don’t always go your way, even when you prepare and practice and do the very best you can — sometimes they don’t go your way,” Holmes said. “What’s important is how you pick yourself up and how you come back. You know, we talk about that all the time.”