ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --First things first: unless you're a fresh-minted college kid interviewing for an internship or a 20-something hire walking the halls on your first day in the office, you don't call the Broncos' long-time communications guru "Mr. Saccomano." And not often will you even say his first name.
It's just "Sacco." You utter those two syllables in NFL communications and Colorado media circles, and no further explanation is needed. That's when you know you're talking about a man who long since crossed the line that divides diligent professional succeeding at his job to being an icon of his field.
Jim Saccomano has been listed in 36 consecutive Broncos media guides in various titles revolving around public relations and communications, all the way up to his current role as vice president. In the photos that accompanied his professional handle, his hair grayed, his glasses shrunk, his prominence ascended. Coaches, players, owners and staff came and went. Saccomano remained, enduring through changes that would have swept others aside.
But does that accurately convey that the man I've known for much of my working life? Not even close. The guy I know and and am privileged to call a friend is "Sacco."
"Sacco" is the guy who, along with his wife JoAnn, opens his home on Thanksgiving dinner to a recent transplant who didn't have any family within 600 miles of Denver and had planned to spend the holiday eating the kind of holiday meal that could be prepared by and for one person: sliced turkey from the deli counter with sweet potatoes from a dented can. Instead, a spread of food and good cheer awaited in abundance -- because if you were invited to a Saccomano gathering, you were taken in as one of the flock, at least for one day.
"Sacco" is the guy who lives and dies with the New York Yankees every day, to the point where he makes you re-think the outsider's stereotype of the Yankee fan: entitled, privileged, spoiled by success, miles less than humble. "Sacco" is none of these things. I measure my fandom of the Atlanta Braves through Sacco's devotion to his Yankees, and even after 30-plus years of watching major and minor league Braves hurl themselves about the diamond, I know I have a long way to go.
"Sacco" is the guy who bounds through the door as I'm writing a story to tell me about the latest baseball stadium he's visited and the next one on his list. He's one of the few people I've met who understands why I would look at the schedules of minor-league teams within a two-hour radius of my former home, find one that I could get to in time for the first pitch, and immediately leave the office for a 90-minute drive to a $6 seat down the first-base line to watch 45 players destined for anonymity and five who just might someday be big-leaguers.
"Sacco" is the guy who knows that a uniform for a team is more than just high-tech, moisture-wicking fabrics and space-age plastic headgear; it's the symbol of its identity, and helps carve out the definition of its place in the game, short- and long-term. This is the kind of person every NFL organization needs: a fierce guardian of its legacy and history, to keep the memories of the past as vibrant as the happenings of the present, because no matter how many snaps, games and seasons pass, every last one of them has meaning in creating the legacy of this team that its fans adore.
"Sacco" is the guy who, on the rare occasions he's not at the stadium, buzzes my phone to exult or vent over whatever he just witnessed over the television. I'd have to leave my perch in the press box to listen to him, and I might miss a play or two. It's worth it to share insight with someone who knows the feeling of sitting in the stands at Bears Stadium watching a fledgling Broncos team that seemed destined for a one-way ticket out of town before the community stepped forward.
"Sacco" is the guy who tells me about his grandchildren and still retains the enthusiasm of those kids four decades younger who pass through every year, calling him "Mr. Saccomano." He's a friend, a mentor, and along with my own father, represents the kind of man I want to be when I grow up. I'm lucky to know him, and I can't wait for the next fascinating conversation about whatever arcane sports topic crosses our minds.