That man happened to be my father.
Born in Colorado I was automatically anointed a Denver Broncos fan, lucky enough to accompany him, and the occasional semi-inebriated relative, to the magic of Mile High, a stadium that was virtually impossible to buy tickets throughout most of the sixty's, seventies, eighty's and ninety's.
Yet, he was my dad – and somehow, always found a way.
He also found a way to sneak his youngest son into several Air Force Academy football games, courtesy of his civil service job with the Fire Department, a position that allowed the two of us to walk the grounds, talk about anything our hearts could dream up and make sure no one actually burst into flames while he was on duty. At the same time we caught some pretty exciting college football.
As a seven-year old I loved those games, I loved the smell of the grass, loved tagging along like some sort of prepubescent celebrity, proud to stand next to the tall handsome man in uniform. Looking back there were a million things I loved, but mostly I loved just being with him…learning life's lessons from an ex-marine who placed the responsibilities of God, Family and Country above all else.
He was that rare breed that blended every aspect of life into one giant lesson, accented with the occasional late night milk shake run the two of us would take in ex-heavyweight Boxing Champ Sonny Liston's old convertible Cadillac, (to this day I'm still not sure how he ended up with it).
As life, and years moved on, so did our love for sports. Season tickets to the Phoenix Suns made the family move to Arizona almost bearable (the key word being almost). So did road games to Los Angeles and Chicago, intermixed with my own participation in organized school football and basketball, secure in the fact he never missed a game, or the chance to congratulate me, no matter how well or how poorly I had played.
Sports was our bonding, it was our strength and it gave us something to share that was uniquely our own. Something I was sure would last forever.
Despite never playing organized sports past a high school level, in an almost forgotten small town in Iowa, my father had developed the unique understanding of the role sports can play in a young man's life.
It became his tool to teach me the most important lesson in life – He taught me what it meant to be a father – and more importantly, he taught me what it meant to be a man.
Fast forward thirty some odd years and while I may not remember where I left my keys or whether or not I've covered the cable bill, I still remember his smile, his laughter and his excitement for the sports he loved. Having a son now covering these sports for FOX became the icing on the cake.
It became a habit of mine to call during each and every game I covered, basketball hockey or football. I'll always remember the feeling standing on the field in Miami after the Broncos second Super Bowl win, listening to the pride and excitement in his voice, tempered with the warning that I needed to be careful and not drink too much if I had to drive back to the hotel.
Yep, that was my Dad, always looking out for the youngest of four kids, the baby of the family, undoubtedly spoiled beyond repair.
Unfortunately, in all my exuberance I failed to understand how time changes. Life seemed to be catching up with him, but I was busy too busy in my own self indulgence to notice.
After all, I now had two daughters of my own, and was trying my best to share what my father had taught me, the lessons I had learned and the love that was shared.
While I was busy trying my best to provide – the most important man in my life was simply trying his best to survive.
After a diagnosis of cancer and a broken hip landed him in a hospital in Arizona, my brothers, Darol and Max, and my sister Sandy and I all put our lives on hold. It was all too surreal; coming face-to-face with reality, but for me, it still hadn't sunk in – at least right then.
Two days later it was a different story.
I'll never forget the moment my father looked in my eyes and reemphasized what the doctor had told Darol and I privately, only moments earlier in the hospital hallway.
"Well, I guess you heard him, there's nothing more they can do,"
And he was right.
Less than two weeks later the most important human being in my life was gone, and I was left with the most beautiful daughters the world had ever created, two fabulous brothers I knew would always be there for me, a sister who has more appreciation for life than anyone I know and a mother whose quite possibly the strongest, yet most endearing and kind hearted woman you'll ever meet.
Thanks to my father, I knew we'd be ok…. and ironically, that's when it dawned on me. That was his plan all along - giving us all the strength to go on.
I guess that‘s what being a family is all about.
This one's for my father – my life's editor, who I'm positive is scratching his head right now, soaking up a cold one and wondering –
"What the hell is with those Broncos?"
I love you Dad - but I honestly have no idea.
Michael John Schon has covered the National Football League and the Denver Broncos for the past twelve-years. As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association he has published and syndicated columns to both newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Canada. His syndicated radio broadcast: "Schon Live" airs weekly on various radio and Internet stations around the country. You can follow all of Schon's updates on Twitter or drop him an email at Michael John Schon
Broncos Update Community Forums