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Saccomano: Fans at Camp, a Great Tradition

Posted Jul 29, 2014

With the second open practice of training camp tomorrow, Jim Saccomano reflects on having fans at camp and their different backgrounds.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It was great to have the first open practice of the 2014 Denver Broncos training camp at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Saturday.

Of course, everyone is aware that the huge construction project at Dove Valley is the reason practices there cannot be open—and trust me, this is a massive construction project.

The very good news is that next year the hillside seating for camp will be much greater than in the past. My opinion is not official, but I would say it is double the previous capacity.

So 22,000 die-hard Bronco fans were at the stadium Saturday, and that many or more might come for the other two practices. That is terrific, because fans have always been a huge part of training camp.

Back in the day, the fans were present for the annual camp scrimmage when head coach Jack Faulkner held the bonfire to burn the notorious brown and yellow vertically striped socks. That was in 1962.

I remember going to many training camp practices when Lou Saban conducted them at the Broncos 5700 Logan headquarters.

Parking was at a premium, and the local authorities were very kind to the Broncos in having sort of a “no harm, no foul” policy regarding ticketing cars parked for camp practices.

When John Ralston took the Broncos to Cal Poly-Pomona for training camp for five years, there was actually still one season when local fans could attend practice. Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts held summer camp at the Colorado School of Mines in 1972.

First the Broncos went to Fort Collins and then to Greeley. The high intensity attendance by fans began in earnest.

We used to end training camp with an annual scrimmage, and Greeley’s Jackson Field at the University of Northern Colorado was annually filled to capacity for what was truly an event of the summer.

A lot of teams claim to have the best fans in pro football, but I put ours right up there with any others.

The passion and love for the franchise has always been so apparent at training camp practices over the years. One thing I have always liked is how the crowds are a combination of people who go to every game, people who watch on television but are absolutely just as involved emotionally, and out-of-town visitors who are making an annual pilgrimage. In some ways, it really is a pilgrimage.

It is great to see the players embrace the long-standing tradition of signing autographs for the fans.

That tradition goes back to the very beginning, and at one time we even had to use the gym on the UNC campus for the autograph lines.

Player after player on the 2014 team has commented on the energy and excitement that the fans bring to practice, and how excited they are to have fans present whenever possible.

This is great all the way around, because every team’s fan base comprises people, and whenever human beings get to interact, a dynamic is created that cannot be matched by any media, regardless of the great job that is done by all those folks.

So this year is an aberration due to construction, but fans still get three chances to watch from stadium seating. Since camps are much shorter than they used to be, due to all the work done by players and coaches in the off-season, the opportunities to watch relative to the total number of practices is actually good.

And it sure happens fast.

Three open practices in a seven day span, and then the first game of the preseason is next Thursday night here against Seattle.

Once that first game is played, the season takes on its own weekly pace of excitement, different players making a run at the roster, seemingly a dozen different story lines every day.

And one absolute element of the Broncos season that we can count on is that the fans will be with us every step of the way.

Team and fans. One does not exist without the other.

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