Up Close and Personal

Denver Broncos fans come in all shapes and sizes, from places you could hardly imagine, all making the pilgrimage to Dove Valley for Training Camp 2005. Dianne Miller gets up close and personal with some of the greatest fans in the NFL.

Webster's Dictionary defines fan as – (short for fanatic) an enthusiastic devotee, an ardent admirer, uncritical devotion. In ten years of covering the Denver Broncos, fans continue amaze the most die-hard cynic. I thought there were no surprises left when it came to Bronco "homies".

Walking into Bronco's training camp at Dove Valley, I noticed an obvious change – "no bleachers, where are the bleachers for the fans?" Recognizing Jim Saccomano, Vice President of Public Relations for the Broncos, I asked about the bleachers and was told the decision was made to remove them so that the fans could be closer to the practice fields and the players.

So, wandering amidst the crowd of orange and blue masses, I stop to chat with Lenay Faulkner and her son Dustin standing just outside the Bronco store. They are standing in line waiting for player autographs following the afternoon practice. (Typically two to four players come out to sign autographs after each practice session open to the public).

Dustin tells me "I'd like to get Champ Bailey or Jake Plummer", but in the meantime with mom in tow, he's stocking up on a few additional Bronco items to add to his collection at home.

"Where's home? How about Wisconsin? Now wait a minute, you came all the way from Wisconsin to watch the Bronco's practice? Surely you have some family in town, or you grew up here and can't wait to come back?" "Well no, Lenay answers, "We've always lived in Wisconsin, but my husband Bernard really bonded with the Broncos when he was just 12 or 13 and he's followed them ever since.

Being that we live in the heart of Packer territory, our boys spent a few years with "Cheesehead" and Bronco paraphernalia around the house, but stopped following the Packers several years ago. We decided a year ago to make our family vacation this year a visit to Broncos training camp. We've never been out west before and got in yesterday. We figured we'd be able to get closer to the players during camp and we were right. And how about that Ron Daynes? You know he's from Wisconsin don't you? Now we have another reason to follow the team".

Shaking my head I turn to another fan in line, "surely you must be from around here?" "Well no, not exactly. I drove here with my nephews Tim and Tony, says Joe Doucette a Special Education Teacher from Reno, Nevada. I've been a huge Bronco fan for years and just never made it out to camp. I've bought all kinds of things over the years, I even have a Bronco pool table". (I didn't even know there was such a thing). "Why don't you ask the guys up front why they don't have a ticket system for fans wanting autographs so they don't have to spend all day standing in line. They could hand out numbers just like they do for concert tickets. Also, do you think they could have a lottery or something so that regular fans could win a ticket?"

Dutifully, I walk into the media office and ask Kate Doll, a tall and very leggy intern from Louisianna, and Philip Clelland, hunched over a computer and also an intern from Arizona, where I might find the answers to the fan's inquiries. Philip reminds me that autographs and access to the players in not the primary purpose of camp, PRACTICE is and that any ancillary opportunity for fans is just catch-as-catch-can. He's right! I'd almost forgotten.

So, next time you folks from Aurora or Centennial, (just ten miles or so down the road), who've never made it out to training camp, but consider themselves hard core Bronco fans; consider Dove Valley as that "Destination Vacation you've only dreamed about". Just ask Lenay, Bernard, Dustin, Branden, Joe, Tim and Tony, who will gladly tell you a few thousand miles to support their favorite team was an easy price to pay to get up close and personal.

Contributions also made by Mishka Char and Brian Tippet

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