The 2017 season will mark the 40th anniversary of the Denver Broncos’ birth as a football dynasty. Although founded in 1960, history will forever mark 1977 as the season the Broncos became a force to be reckoned with. 1977 is the birth of the original Broncos D–the Orange Crush. It was a single loss season where many of the greats of 70s pro football were taken down by a bunch of Colorado upstarts. Everything we have become as a franchise begins with our first trek to the Super Bowl during the 77-78 season.
My memories of the 77-78 Broncos’ Season are impressionistic—I was only in kindergarten at the time. I mostly remember the enthusiasm and bright young faces of my parents riding the joy of the original Mile High Magic as the beloved Broncos finally were growing into a potential championship team. They were season ticket holders before our team was a winner—and the birth of the Orange Crush was thrilling for Broncos fans big and small in 1977.
The joy of this season seeped into my very bloodstream. Sundays were often spent with my Grandparents or babysitters but it was understood this Broncos season was special. My parents had to be at Mile High to make the magic. I hardly missed them–I was allowed Orange Crush soda on Sundays! I had no concept of the game at that point but I knew the names that will forever be hallowed in Broncos lore–Louis Wright, Tom Jackson, Randy Gradishar, Rick Upchurch, Haven Moses, and Steve Foley among other Broncos greats.
I remember Christmas Eve waiting to start the holidays took forever—my parents had to be at Mile High for the Divisional Playoff game beating the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers (34-21). My young mind quickly grasped the pageantry and drama of sports-of heroes and villains–of muddy hard-wrought battles of warriors. It would be many years before I actually understood what I was watching, but my young heart was captured in the magical 1977 season when the actual Broncos dynasty was born.
I remember everyone gathering around the rabbit-eared and tin foiled antenna TV for the Super Bowl. It was the first, but certainly not the last time I would cry over the Broncos. After riding such a high of the dominance of a single-loss season, of defeating the dreaded Steelers and Raiders to reach the zenith, our beloved Broncos were no match for the clearly superior Cowboys in SB XII. The Orange Crush crashed down to earth and an underdog team of both grit and flash fell short. All of the grown-ups assembled were in turn frustrated and hopeless. I cried like the young girl that I was—completely heartbroken without understanding why.
I learned a valuable lesson that day–you don’t always win.
I needed that experience to prepare for the many youthful disappointments to come with SBs XXI, XXII and particularly XXIV (which in my mind is still the worst loss in Broncos SB history).
As a girl, the 77-78 Broncos team picture hung on my bedroom wall until I reached adulthood. 40 years later I still have this amazing relic to remind me of where we have come from as a team, and how this momentous season inspired my unwavering loyalty and love of the Denver Broncos. Forty years ago our Broncos became winners, and set our franchise on a storied path of Super Bowl appearances and victories, of spectacular HOF players, and under the ownership of Pat Bowlen, the second most winning franchise in all of professional sports.
What are your memories of this momentous season in Broncos’ history? Do you have any special memorabilia from the original Orange Crush era?