Sunday, August 9, 2009
Growing Up In The South Stands
I mentioned in my first blog post I have had Bronco season tickets since 1968. "Good to hear from an old timer!" was a typical reply I received. Well, I'm old (at age 53) but not THAT old. You see, I have had Bronco season tickets since age 12!
Yes, in 1968 I bought Bronco season tickets for the huge amount of $2 a game ($14 for the season!) The Broncos at the time had a reduced endzone price for kids age 12 and under. I only had $25 in my savings account. I begged my Mom to let me buy Bronco tickets with my best friend and next door neighbor Greg. "Are you sure this has lasting enjoyment?" Mom asked. Dad was on a business trip. Mom let him give the final approval. "Well if its your own money and you think you'll like it, go ahead," said Dad. I was ecstatic!
Greg's Mom drove us to the stadium where we picked out our two seats in the South Stands. Section CC Row 39 seats 23 and 24 - right in the middle 2/3rds of the way up. My Bronco season ticket would become my prized possession in my growing up years in the late 60's and 70's. I attended every home game. Floyd Little was my favorite player. There were many losses, but a few memorable wins. A victory over Joe Namath and the defending Super Bowl Champ NY Jets in 1969 was one of the best.
Sitting in the middle of the South Stands was anything but comfortable. We were packed in like sardines, with little leg room (even for a 12 year old). Since we were over 20 seats from an aisle, it was almost impossible to get out during the middle of a game. One Sunday we were able to buy the seat next to ours for Greg's Dad. He was not impressed. "If I have to take a pee," he said, "I'll never get out. I'll have to take a leak in my thermos!" Still there was just enough room to pound our feet on the hard metal floor. The sound of 8,000 stomping South Standers was deafening, and disrupted many a play from Broncos opponents over the years. Rocky Mountain Thunder was born.
Despite the packed conditions, we loved our seats. We had a fantastic view of the field, right behind the goal posts. I remember having a great sightlines to see immediately if a field goal was good or not. I knew Jim Turner's 53 yarder at the gun to beat Cleveland in 1975 was between the uprights soon after the ball left his foot. We could see Rick Upchurch weave his way through the opposition for many thrilling punt return td's. John Elway's arm strength was amazing to witness from my vantage point high in the end zone. The "fumble"at the South 5 yard line that decided the 1988 AFC Championship game was within easy view.
We also developed a close relationship with those sitting around us. We saw the same people EVERY home game. An elderly businessman sat behind us. "I own seats on the 50 yard line," he used to tell us, "but I'd rather sit here. You can really see the plays open up from the end zone." I came to be known as the "radio kid". Every game I would bring my transistor radio to listen to Bob Martin's play by play as I watched the action below. Those sitting around me would ask "what's the score of the Raider game?" "are the Chiefs losing?" No iphones in those days - my little radio was our link to the outside world.
After 33 years and too many memories to count I left the South Stands in 2001. The view from my current seats is pictured at the the top of this blog - I'm now in the Northwest corner of Invesco field, section 319 2nd level. Having bought out my friend Greg in the 80's I own two season tickets. Unlike the South Stands I can easily get out at halftime for a restroom break or refreshments. My view of the field is good, but not quite the same as the old days. It seems I have different people sitting next to me every game.
Early in 2001 I toured Mile High Stadium for the last time, shortly before it was torn down to become a parking lot for the new stadium next door. I took the picture on the right of my wife and 7 year old twin boys playing on the field with the South Stands in the background. On that cold January day I remembered all the fun times and memorable games I attended in this place. I walked up to the base of those rusty metal stands, put my hand on the wall, and said "Goodbye old friend."