EAGLE COUNTY — Elway’s restaurant in Vail Village isn’t usually thought of as a sports bar. But given the name on the sign, this is a good week to talk football in the bar.
John Elway, of course, is the greatest player to ever put on a Denver Broncos uniform. He currently runs the team, which — in case you’ve just roused from a six-month hibernation — plays the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII.
On a weekday afternoon, the bar was a little busy, but bartender Andy Lloyd was happy to talk football with friends Shawn Isbell and Carl Thompson. Isbell and Lloyd are dedicated Broncos fans; Thompson is a New York Giants fan, so his interest in the game was more academic than anything else, although he is a fan of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and his comeback from multiple neck surgeries in 2011.
“It’s awesome that the game’s in New York,” Thompson said of this year’s championship game site. “I think it’s good for football to have it there.”
Some believe that a successful Super Bowl in New York (New Jersey, actually) will give a boost to other cold-weather cities, including Denver, which is bidding on the 2019 Super Bowl.
“Denver would be more favorable,” than the current site, Thompson said, adding that weather in the Mile High City could be anywhere from the low 60s to the low 20s.
Real Broncos Fans
But Isbell and Lloyd are the real Broncos fans. Lloyd, who, like Manning, calls Elway his boss, said it ought to be a rule that people who work at Elway’s should be Broncos fans. And, he said, the place gets more raucous than you might think when the Broncos are playing.
“The tables are full and the bar’s packed,” Lloyd said.
Isbell, like a lot of fans, believes Colorado’s team will win, but he expects a tight game.
“I’ll be biting some nails on Sunday,” he said.
Bob’s Place in Avon is a more traditional sports bar, with TVs everywhere and customers happy to talk about the big game. The place was fairly quiet on a recent afternoon, but bartender Jason McNeely said “there’s been a lot of chatter” about the game.
“People are pretty pumped,” he added. And, while you’d expect any bar in Colorado to be a haven mostly for Broncos fans, McNeely said a number of regulars are pulling for the Seattle Seahawks, too. The good news, he said, is that the back-and-forth is pretty good natured.
Like Thompson, McNeely said he’s pulling as much for Manning as he is for the entire team. After Manning was cut from the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 after playing there his entire career, it struck many people as disloyal.
“I don’t think there’s anything stopping him,” McNeely said.
The Broncos fans at Bob’s were a mix of both local residents and visitors on this visit. Just in town for what turned out to be a well-timed ski vacation, David Owen, of Dallas, said he’s pulling for Denver, especially since his Cowboys aren’t in the championship game.
“A lot of Texans don’t like the Seahawks,” Owen said. “A lot of us think they stole the whole ‘12th man’ thing from Texas A&M.”
Sitting at a table with friends, Mark Palermo, of Miami, echoed the thought that Manning was treated shabbily by the Colts.
Fellow Miami resident Albert Borrera, wearing a Manning jersey, agreed, but added that it seems Manning ended up in Denver thanks to Elway’s influence. Manning, at the time, the most highly-accomplished player ever to become a free agent in the National Football League, first talked to the Miami Dolphins before agreeing to come to the Broncos.
Aside from Elway, though, Palermo said he believes Denver had the best cast of players already on the team.
While most believe that Sunday’s game will be a close one, a pair of longtime fans have a different take.
“Broncos by 10,” Bob’s owner Bob Doyle said. “I called Broncos by 10 against the (New England) Patriots, and it’ll be Broncos by 10 Sunday.”
At the Riverwalk Barbershop in Edwards, co-owner Jim Carlton said he thinks the Broncos are poised for a big win.
“I think it’s going to be (about) 34-17,” Carlton said. “They just have too many weapons.”
That thought brought a quick reply from customer Jeremy Aldrich, who said, “I like the way you’re talking.”