After a lifelong search, on a lovely spring day in 1989, I finally discovered my Denver Broncos Holy Grail. This discovery wasn’t made from an epic Knights of the Round Table quest, rather it happened quite uneventfully on an ordinary day. In all honesty it wasn’t a life-long search either because I was but a young high school kid only five years into my Broncos fandom. However, I was already a fan of the diehard variety.
I had spent many a football season discussing the National Football League with my close friend Shed. This interestingly named lad just so happened to be a devout Minnesota Vikings fan. If you didn’t know, hitching your wagon to that team’s fan universe back then came with the pleasure of subscribing to the Vikings Insider or some similarly named magazine devoted to bringing all things Vikings to the fan base.
He loved that monthly magazine filled with interesting information about the team he adored. He hovered this magazine over my head for three years. Frankly, I was jealous and also sad because there wasn’t a magazine filled with interesting information about the Broncos. How could that be? They had just finished back-to-back Super Bowl appearances for Christ’s sake. Believe me, I scoured every source I could in an attempt to find one. This was pre-internet days so the search was limited, but I had plenty of sports publications filled with advertisements for other team’s magazines. Searching through the ad filled final pages of all the sports publications I could get my hands on was a laborious process, but one that I fulfilled frequently with determination and vigor.
Finally, on that fateful spring day, while perusing The Sporting News there it was in the back pages: an advertisement for Broncos World Magazine. Even though that ad was printed in black and white on newspaper material it leapt off the page like it was in high gloss. The ad read $30 for a one year, 12-issue subscription.
Granted, $30 for a high school kid who was raised on a poor ranch in the middle of nowhere was a bit steep, but there was no way I was going to pass up the chance of a lifetime. Luckily for me I had been working full-time since I was thirteen. Even though I wanted to save every penny I made for college, I quickly dug that 30 bucks out of an old Prince Albert can I got from my grandfather. I cut out the ad, gave the money to my mom (because why the hell would I have need of a check book?), and got it in the mail faster than Von Miller can get to a quarterback.
Then I waited. And waited. And waited. Now, I’m not a patient man and back then it had to be magnified by at least one hundred. The only way I could describe it would be to roll a movie a clip from Dumb and Dumber when Harry, with his leg on fire, wants the girl in the Jeep Cherokee to just GIVE HIM THE DAMN NUMBER! While I waited of course thoughts crept into my head. Did I not fill out my address correctly? Did the letter get lost? Was it just a huge scam to steal my hard earned money? You know, the type of things that quickly consume a kid’s mind. Back then there was no order tracker. Not even a phone number to call to check the status. All I had was faith, wishing on falling stars, and praying to the football gods.
After what felt like an eternity, but actually only three months, on a hot day in late July the first issue arrived. The magazine itself was very plain, more newspaper than magazine, but it did have a color cover. In the flashy department it was more Jake Plummer than Neon Deion. It didn’t matter to me in the least, because gracing the cover of the inaugural issue was none other than my favorite player, Karl Mecklenburg. The caption read: Heart of the Defense.
That was enough right there to make the $30 worthwhile. Hell, I would have paid double. In fact, the rest of the pages could have been filled with lint from the editor’s dryer and I would have still been satisfied. It wasn’t. It was filled with page after page of Broncos players, stats, and the best of all: a season preview! I was an early adopter of Lindy’s Sports NFL preview magazines and still buy them today, but this was better. Even though it may have a had a disclaimer stating it was not affiliated with the Denver Broncos organization, it was still dedicated to just the Broncos. I was in heaven.
I read that issue from cover to cover. Then cover to cover again. I could have worn those pages out, but I was very careful because I adored it. Luckily the next issue came so I could read it instead. Then the next one arrived and the next, like Jelly of the Month Club, but infinitely more satisfying. At this point in my life, it was the crowning moment in my Broncos fandom. The covers had John Elway (twice), Mark Jackson, Vance Johnson, Simon Fletcher, Dan Reeves, Mike Harden, Ken Lanier, Dennis Smith, Tyrone Braxton, and Bobby Humphrey. Inside on those glorious pages were also articles about Steve Atwater, The Third Amigo Ricky Nattiel, Rulon Jones, Steve Watson and many others.
Those were great days. I now was no longer the leper of football discussions because I had Broncos World Magazine. My friend no longer had anything over me. Those magazines filled me with knowledge that made me a football genius in our small circle of NFL fans. That was a glorious year.
Unfortunately, it was short lived. Even though Shed got his Vikings magazine renewal months in advance, mine never came. How could this be? Why wouldn’t fans be clamoring to renew this magnificent subscription? I looked through every page of all twelve issues and found nothing that would allow me to renew. I scoured The Sporting News and many other football magazines looking for another Broncos World ad. There was none to be found. The magazine just disappeared. I was flabbergasted and confused. Looking back at it now as a much wiser adult, I am sure it went bankrupt due to lack of subscriptions or any of the many reasons magazines go belly up. The fact that I received all twelve issues is amazing. I could have been the only subscriber for all I know.
Over the years, I have searched the Internet many times in an attempt to find any information about Broncos World Magazine, but alas all my digging has found nothing. Not one shred of evidence that these magazines were ever printed or a company that printed them. It is like Broncos World Magazine never existed. It wasn’t a figment of my imagination because I still have those 12 issues.
I have moved these incredible magazines many times, once from Oregon to Maine and they are in mint condition. Well, except one, the final issue. The issue with Elway adorning the cover and a review of the Broncos fourth AFC Championship season. For some reason our cat decided it was a great place to take a piss. Of all places on eighty God-Forsaken acres of land surrounded by what seemed like endless miles of sagebrush he decides that this is a great place to do his ‘business’. What kind of sick son of a bitch would pee on what could be the only copy of Broncos World Magazine Volume 1, Issue 12 in existence? We found out a few years later that rodent shaped devil was actually a closet Raiders fan. Now, I know there are many funky things going on in the Black Hole, but even so that was pretty damn low. If I wasn’t an animal lover, nine lives would have went quickly. I will probably harbor some resentment forever. When he did finally pass away, my sister cried, but I wasn’t sad.
Over the years I have tried in vain to remove the evidence that this awful event took place. Many attempts have been made to clean it by wiping it with gentle cleansers, but ever so carefully to not ruin the cover. It no longer smells like cat urine and hasn’t for many years, but the issue still bears that cat’s mark. I have come to terms that it probably will forever just like that cat will forever remain a part of the story for better or worse. Even with a urine stain I love that issue.
I love every issue not only because they are filled with the team I love and have loved for several decades, but also because they are a significant story in my life. During a time when who I was to become was still being shaped, Broncos World Magazine played a small part. Granted, in the events of my life, this is a minor one, but still a great story to tell. This is why I keep every issue safely tucked away so they can remain in good condition. That and the suspicion that they may be the only copies still in existence.