Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Behind the Scenes at Dove Valley and the Denver Huddle

On a pleasant Fall evening I was given the opportunity to see the taping of The Denver Huddle Broncos TV show at the team's headquarters in Dove Valley.

In the lobby was a display of Bronco helmets over the years, trophies the team has won, and footballs from milestone games.

The team's two Vince Lombardi trophies were prominently displayed.  I think it's about time to expand that case and add a third in February!

I remember the Broncos big win over San Diego in 1973 to clinch the team's first winning season.  Was it really 40 years ago?

We briefly were allowed access outside the Bronco locker room where a history of the team's head coaches is displayed in this mural.  Is there room for Jack Del Rio?

Long time Bronco fans will remember legendary broadcaster Bob Martin.  It was good to see the Broncos honor Martin with this picture at the team's headquarters.

Our Denver Broncos Quarterback Club group was led behind locked gates to places the general public does not get to see.

The practice fields were silent this night, a far cry from the busy training camp workouts I witnessed here three months earlier.

We walked past the weight room to the temporary set for the Denver Huddle TV show.  Here hosts Rod Mackey and Ed McCaffery talk to player guest Shaun Phillips before the cameras started to roll.

Phillips came across as a very humble team player.  He said he had no bitterness towards the Chargers after San Diego let him go in the offseason, but he was looking forward to sacking Phillip Rivers this week.

Phillips demonstrated his pass rush moves.  He said he only had two.  "You don't need 13 moves to rush the passer," he told us.  He displayed his primary move and counter move.

The Bronco Quarterback Club members in attendance listened intently and cheered on queue for the show.  I was thrilled to have a first row seat!

After the show Broncos President Joe Ellis took questions from our group.  I asked him if Denver would ever host a Super Bowl.  He said after the Giants game this year in New York members of the Broncos management stayed a couple of extra days to meet with the NFL to explore the possibility of a Super Bowl in Denver.  "They encouraged us to throw our hat into the ring," said Ellis.  He thought this year's Super Bowl in New York will be key to Denver's chances - will the big game in a cold weather city come off OK?

Overall it was a great evening to see the Broncos training facility behind the scenes and witness closeup the taping of the Denver Huddle TV show.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Bronco Fan in Dallas

This past weekend I attended the Broncos shootout win 51-48 over the Cowboys in Dallas.  I've attended hundreds of Bronco games since getting season tickets as a 12 year old in 1968.  The Dallas trip was special in that it was the first time I have attended a Bronco road game ever!   Here are some pictures I took and my comments on the experience.

AT&T stadium in the Dallas suburb of Arlington was huge!  I took this picture about three hours before game time.  Opening as Cowboys Stadium in 2009, Dallas owner Jerry Jones got a sponsorship deal with AT&T and changed the name this year.  The stadium seats 80,000 with a maximum capacity of 105,000 with standing room only.  On this day 92,857 fans were in attendance.


Before the game I attended a tailgate party with Denver and Dallas fans across the street from the stadium.  While in the restroom a group of Cowboy fans saw our Bronco gear and yelled, "Denver!! The Cowboys are going to kick some Bronco ass today!!".  "Tough crowd," said a bronco fan next to me.  These inebreated Dallas fans were the exception.  In general the Cowboy fans were gracious hosts and congratulated us on a good game afterwards.  One Dallas season ticket holder told me he had never seen so many visiting team's fans at a Cowboy game.  It reminded me of when Pittsburgh plays in Denver where about 1/3rd of the stadium seems to be Steeler fans.

 The tailgate party had an indoor area where Cowboy hall of famer Mel Renfro was signing autographs.  I quickly looked up on my iphone browser Mel's biography and found out his last game was the Dallas 27-10 win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XII - one of the most painful games of my childhood!  I was going to discuss that with Mel but the autograph line got to be too long.

The coach of that 1977 Cowboy team, Tom Landry, is immortalized in this statue outside the stadium.  Throughout the area were tributes to Cowboy greats of the past (I walked through the "Roger Staubach" parking lot).

Once inside I was thrilled with the location of our seats - in the corner of the end zone in the second level.  This is the same viewing angle I have the field as my seats back home at Sports Authority Field in Denver, except here I was even closer to the action.

Most impressive were the huge video boards suspended 90 feet above the field - here showing the Cowboy cheerleaders in their pregame performance.  Even though my seats were in the corner I had a clear view of the video screen, and I found myself watching it often.

The Cowboys make the most of their pregame ceremony - cheerleaders, pyrotechnics, and Cowboy coach Jason Garrett greeting each player as the player is introduced in the center of the field.  The stadium was extremely loud and the crowd was hyped!  No doubt this helped the Cowboys get off to a quick 14-0 lead.

In this game as luck would have it much of the action was on the opposite side of the field from my seats.  The video boards came in handy for watching action near the opposite goal line.  I found myself looking at the video board more often than using my binoculars like I do back at Sports Authority.  I had one problem with the video boards - the Cowboys don't show near as many replays as the Broncos do at their home games.  Instead Cowboy owner Jerry Jones uses the video boards to incite the crowd.  Every time when it was third down for the Broncos, instead of showing the replay of the previous action, large letters would appear on the board "Third Down!!!" accompanied by blaring music, in an attempt to disrupt the Broncos plays with overwhelming noise.  It didn't work - Peyton Manning and the Broncos converted many a third down this game.  Jerry, how about using the video boards for what they were designed for, showing replays and live game action, instead of treating your fans like a bunch of drones that need to be prompted to cheer for your team?

$16 for an in game margarita??  No thanks but this vendor didn't have any problems selling out her inventory.  Dallas calls these "Cowboy-ritas".  I kept my fluid intake to a minimum during the game because of the long lines for the men's room - a 1/2 hour pregame wait for the bathroom was enough for me.  The women had no such problem - my wife reports there was no wait for the ladies room.  I also found the concourses very crowded during the game.  I'm guessing some of the stadium room only people come down to the lower levels for a better view.  I saw fans standing four deep at the top of our section, with the usher carefully checking tickets before letting anyone through to their seats.

Needless to say, the game was a great one to attend for a Bronco fan with all the scoring and the Denver win at the end.  Afterwards the concourse was jammed with exiting fans - it took over 30 minutes to get through the gates to the outside air.

On Monday we were treated to a tour of AT&T Stadium.  The highlight was a chance to get on the field!  Here I am sitting at what I thought was the spot of Danny Trevathan's big interception.  I was about 6 yards off (thanks Jerry for not showing the replay).  The stadium turf was firm yet flexible - a great surface to play on.  Artificial turf has really advanced over the years.

On the field I got a closer look at the field level boxes which you can see in the distance.  Cowboy fans pay a premium for these, which come with a seat in the first two rows immediately above the box.  On the field visitors were throwing passes and even kicking field goals with footballs they had brought.  Back home in Denver they don't let you near the natural grass turf on Sports Authority Field tours - the artificial turf of AT&T stadium allows fans a closeup experience.

View of the video board from the field.  I would guess players don't even think about the video board during the game - it's pretty much removed from game action.

Fans in the field level boxes have access to this lounge before and during the game.  When the Cowboys are introduced at midfield these fans get a chance to high five the players before they run out into the field.  On the visiting end the field level box fans watch the opposing team from behind plexiglass as they run out on the field.

Field box ticket holders also have their own parking spot indoors.

The elevator to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' suite.  The Jones suite, which holds 100 people, is not shown on the tour.  In fact our tour guide said he had never seen it, and he's been doing tours for three years.

We did get to see one of the other upper level suites.

A great view of the video board and the field from the suite.  Our guide said over 90% of the suites are sold out but there are a few available for public sale for each game.  How about renting a suite for the Thanksgiving game, and then having a catered meal afterwards?  Our guide didn't say how much that would cost - no doubt some Texas oilman will rent it to impress his friends.

Back on field level we saw the room where the Cowboys host post game press conferences - the largest of its kind in the NFL.  Field box ticket holders can watch the press conference from their lounge next door.

Next we saw the Cowboys locker room.  You can see pictures of former Cowboy greats, like Don Meredith, above.  Honestly I was more impressed with the Bronco locker room at Sports Authority Field than this one, though it is good of the Cowboys to allow locker room access on their tours (the Broncos don't show their locker room on most Sports Authority Field tours)

 I had to say a word of thanks at Tony Romo's locker for his big interception at the end of Sunday's game.

And now for something completely different ... the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders locker room!  Lots more mirrors in here compared to the players' locker room.

Each cheerleader had her picture above her locker.

Along with her twitter handle below (sorry guys, no phone numbers)

 Cheerleaders pregame instructions - note each is encouraged to "Shake Your Tailgate"

Overall it was an amazing experience to see the Broncos win in such a great stadium - the best one I have ever been in.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Great Opener for Patrick Roy and the Avs

I attended the Colorado Avalanche's home opener last night, a 6-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks.

Goalie Semyon Varlamov was excellent - the Avs defense was shaky early and Varlamov made some big saves.  Too bad he lost the shutout at the end.  Patrick Roy in his post game press conference said Varlamov was the #1 star.

Ryan O'Reilly had the play of the game with a great steal and score to put the Avs up 1-0.  Good to have Radar this season from game 1.

This was my first look at Nathan McKinnon as I didn't see any of the Avs preseason games.  He's going to be fun to watch.  I was impressed by his speed and he had two nice passes to setup goals.

I heard an interview with Patrick Roy yesterday morning where he said he would be calmer as a coach than he was as a player.  I said to my wife, "we'll see how long that lasts."  Not very long, as last night's post game tirade showed!

I thought the Avs played with a lot of energy and passion, and Roy has to have something to do with that.  It's easy to play hard on opening night in front of a near sell out crowd but I have a feeling we won't see the Avs take too many nights off with Roy behind the bench.

Next week's road trip to Toronto, Boston, and Washington may give us more of an early indication of how good this team is, but last night sure was everything an Avs fan could have hoped for in an opener.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

2013 Bronco prediction: a good season but not quite Super

In a few minutes I will be leaving for the opening game of the Denver Broncos 2013 season vs. the Baltimore Ravens.  Here are my quick thoughts on the Broncos season:

Despite Von Miller and Champ Bailey being out I expect the Broncos to win tonight.  I think the Broncos passing game will be the best ever this season.  Opposing teams, starting with the Ravens, will have a difficult time stopping the wide receiver trio of Thomas, Decker, and Welker with Peyton Manning showing the all pro form of his Indianapolis Colts days.  I saw Manning close up in training camp and his arm is stronger this year - two years removed from the neck injury that caused him to miss the 2011 season.

All will not be rosy for the Broncos this season, though.  Many fans are assuming the team will go to the Super Bowl.  I hope they are right, but I am not that optimistic.  Denver has tough road games at the NY Giants, at Dallas, at Indianapolis, at New England, and at Houston.  I think they'll have a hard time matching last year's 13-3 record with this difficult road slate, even if they win all their home games (and there will probably be an unexpected home loss along the way, like last year's loss to Houston at Sports Authority field).

I'm concerned about the defense - missing Von Miller for the first six games and without the pass rush of Elvis Dumervil.  I'm also not convinced the Broncos have fixed their problems of defending the long pass in the secondary - a weakness that I mentioned in my prediction last year and which proved to be the team's undoing in that playoff loss to the Ravens.

I predict the Broncos will finish with an 11-5 record, they will once again win the AFC West, but they will not be the #1 seed in the AFC.  Historically great passing teams do not fare well in the playoffs on the road during the cold month of January.  I predict the Broncos will lose at New England in the AFC Championship game.

I hope the Broncos surprise me and surpass this prediction, bringing home another Lombardi trophy.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Tour of Sports Authority Field at Mile High

On a hot August Sunday morning I was fortunate to tour Sports Authority Field at Mile High with a private group.

We started in the north parking lot, where the spot of home plate in the old Mile High Stadium/Bears Stadium  is marked.  It's easy to miss unless you are looking for it!

As I took a swing at home plate I thought of all the great baseball players who had stood at this very spot over the years - Mickey Mantle, Andre Dawson, Barry Larkin, Barry Bonds, and more.

On to the interior of the stadium. We started at the Security Command Center where Sports Authority Field is monitored with various tv monitors 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

Get too rowdy at a game?  You may find yourself in this holding cell while the Denver Police is called to escort you to jail!

Next we walked out to the field.

The stadium from this view point was an impressive sight!  I was at the edge of the North End Zone, just a few feet away from where Baltimore's Jacoby Jones crossed the goal line in the last seconds of the January playoff game.  That loss still stings 7 months later!

A closer look at the new scoreboard - currently the third largest in the NFL.  I look forward to seeing hi-def replays here during the up coming season!

The scoreboards over the north end zone were updated, too.  They are now 1 1/2 times bigger also with hi definition screens.

The highlight of the tour for me was seeing the Bronco locker room.  We could take pictures and explore as long as we didn't walk on the horse head - sacred ground!

#1 draft choice Sylvester Williams' locker. 

Motivational slogans were posted throughout the Broncos locker room.


The visitors' locker room is one of the largest in the NFL.

No motivational slogans in the visitors room, but rather warnings on proper play.

When exiting their locker room visitors look straight at this sign reminding them just how light the air is outside.

Outside both locker rooms is a large covered area where the visiting team's bus pulls up.  This area is also used for trucks used in supporting the TV broadcast.

Post game press conferences are held in this room nearby the locker rooms.

Next we had a look at one of the suites on the club level.

The windows of the suite can be opened giving an unobstructed view of the field.  Or if the weather is cold (like that 5 degree Baltimore playoff game in January) fans can watch from behind the glass in heated comfort.

Above the club level is a state of the art press box with internet connections at each seat.

The barrel man's barrel is displayed in the press area.

We finished our tour in the scoreboard operations room - 25 technicians operate the scoreboards from this room during games.

The tour was a fantastic inside look at the stadium I have attended so many games in. When I am in my seat for the season opener on September 5th vs the Ravens I will certainly have a better appreciation of all the behind the scenes work that makes attending a Broncos game a great experience!