Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rewrite: The Fumble Heard Around the AFC

It was a crisp fall like January day, (62 degrees)  when the 1987 AFC Championship Game was played.  The weather was warm for a January day in Denver.  The weather was much nicer than a year ago; when the Cleveland Dog-pound Biscuit throwing fans hosted the Broncos in the 1986 AFC Championship game.    

1986 John Elway, Ricky Natille, and Sammy Winder had done the impossible, miraculous drive that would make John Elway a legend.  

The game was being called on NBC by Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen to all those fans who were unable to make it to the game in Denver.

My dad and I were at the game.  We sat on the ten yard line, beneath the top bleacher of the old Mile High Stadium.   We were nervous as the game began, but the nerves settled down when Denver got out to a 14-0 first quarter start.   By half time Denver was leading 21-3, we were sure that Cleveland just was not up to the mighty Orange Crush.   

But the second half was different.   Cleveland scrapped back and were only down by a touchdown 24-31. 

  The browns were only down 38-31 when they were at the Broncos eight yard line with 1:12 remaining in regulation.   It seemed that the Broncos needed another miracle in order to get to their second super-bowl in two years.    John Elway only could yell on sidelines as the Defense attempted to hold back the browns.   The defensive rejects: Karl Mecklenburg, Rulon Jones, Jeremiah Castille, Jim Ryan, Bruce Plummer would have to hold back Kosar from doing what seemed very likely.  

  We felt a metallic nervousness in our throats.    

We yelled as best we could, "Defense! Defense!"

I asked my dad for the binoculars, and watched as Bernie Kosar gave Ernest Byner the football,  and it seemed to not even touch his hands.  I proclaimed, "Dad, Denver's got it! Byner fumbled, Byner Fumbled." 
The football bounced right into Denver's Defender Castille's chest.  Castille fell on the ball, and covered it like green chili smothering a big burrito.  

The referee JIm Tunney raised his hands and pointed in the direction of Denver's position.    

My dad and I jumped up and down, up and down, as we could not help but think "This time we will win the Super Bowl and be champions of the NFL.   Being Champions of the NFL would redeem Denver out of the cowpoke back woods mind set that the rest of the world thought of Denver.     I remember running in front of the NBC cameras in the mile High Stadium parking lot, holding up my finger and saying "Denver's Number One!" 

One warm January day, in 1987, late in the fourth Quarter,  Ernest Byner fumbled on the 2 yard line; redefining him and his 1987 Cleveland Browns forever.  

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