The only connection I had to the Denver Broncos could be traced to my 10th birthday, December 9, 1962. My father had a part-time job parking cars in the lots surrounding the Cotton Bowl. I do not know what he was paid, but he got free entrance to every college and pro football game at which he worked. Like a lot of Texans, Dad was a football fanatic. He did his duty that day, and we entered the big, old stadium. The Broncos, one of the weaklings of the American Football League, lost to the Dallas Texans by a 17-10 score. I was badly underdressed and the weather was frigid, so we left early in the second half. All I remember is the Broncos’ bright orange uniforms.
I enjoyed writing this book, largely because of my affinity for the AFL. I have always liked hearing and reading the stories about its early days when players, coaches, ticket-sellers, popcorn vendors and fans were in it altogether. The Broncos were in the middle of all that. What a fascinating birth this baby had! Bob Howsam, along with his father and brother, had been running the Denver Bears minor league baseball team since 1947. He really did not have enough money to start a pro football team, but AFL founder Lamar Hunt thought that Howsam’s experience with baseball would be helpful and so he got a franchise (along with the Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Titans, Houston Oilers, Boston Patriots and Hunt’s Texans). He soon had to sell the team, but he went on to serve as general manager for the St. Louis Cardinals (1964 World Series champs) and Cincinnati Reds (ditto, 1975 and 1976).
The Broncos were a pretty inept bunch for the first 15 years of their existence. I would say their most significant victory during that time was in a game that did not count. The AFL and long-established NFL had agreed on a merger, and the first Super Bowl—the Green Bay Packers dusting the Kansas City Chiefs’ brooms, 35-10—had been played seven months earlier. In one of the first inter-league exhibition games, the Broncos hosted the Detroit Lions at DU Stadium on August 5, 1967 and shocked the sports world by taking a 13-7 victory.
Denver reached the Super Bowl after the 1977 season but lost to the Dallas Cowboys. Once the Texans left for Kansas City, I switched my allegiance to Dallas’ only remaining team and was happy to see them beat the bucking Broncos. Twenty years would pass before they won it all, with quarterback John Elway (pictured on the cover of the book) and running back Terrell Davis at the forefront. The futuristic “cyber-horse” unis they wore looked nothing like the brown-and-yellow monstrosities with vertically striped socks from the 1960 and ’61 seasons.
This was the fourth in the Trivia Teasers series, and I was still under the illusion that if I wrote enough of them and they sold well I might be able to sustain myself. I had certainly mastered the formula of gathering information about a pro sports team and putting it into Q&As in roughly chronological order, along with six chapter intros. I told the managing editor that I was willing to do three at a time, rather than two. He readily agreed. For a time, it seemed that I would be writing a lot of these books—perhaps dozens, in all the major sports. That would soon be proven not to be the case.