The Broncos have played just twice on New Year's Day, and one of those was a memorable AFC Championship matchup against the Raiders. (Photos by AP)
Without question, the ending to the 2016 NFL season has been a tough one for the Denver Broncos and their fans.
We all have gotten tremendously accustomed to winning, a little and mostly a lot, but we have to be level-headed about the situation.
Though you can expect to win a lot, you cannot win always. A lot of the game's joy is in the bounce back.
When I was visiting some friends at the Broncos Wednesday, someone mentioned that they had read somewhere the suggestion that fans boycott the final game to show disappointment.
In itself, it is a disappointing suggestion, as at the very heart of Denver Broncos fandom is a deep-rooted love affair with our great fans, the best in the NFL. And no one ever wants to boycott history.
You see, we are playing the Oakland Raiders in Denver on Jan. 1, New Year's Day, for just the second time in the history of the two teams.
We have come close before, playing the Raiders on Dec. 29, 2013, and on Dec. 28, 2014, but only once before have we played them on New Year's Day, and it was one of the most dramatic Broncos games of all time, a fitting kickoff to a 40-year run of success like few NFL teams have ever enjoyed.
It was on Jan. 1, 1977 in the AFC Championship Game that Denver defeated the Raiders 20-17 before 74,982 loyalists, propelling the Broncos to the AFC crown and an appearance in Super Bowl XII.
We are not happy with the way this season is ending — no one is — from Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway to Head Coach Gary Kubiak to the fans in the very top rows towering over the end zone to the millions watching on television.
Take a photographic trip through the series history between the Broncos and the Raiders.
But what we have seen in the 40 years since the beginning of that season is pretty amazing.
The Broncos have claimed 15 division titles as well as eight Super Bowl appearances, a total tied for the most in NFL history.
Denver was playing a grizzled world-championship Raiders team that day, but since then Denver has matched Oakland in total world titles with three, becoming one of just nine franchises to have won that many.
Pat Bowlen is the only owner in NFL history to have his team win 300 or more games in his first 30 years of ownership — a record that will take someone else 30 years to match!
And since the uber-competitive John Elway became General Manager, Denver trails only New England in overall wins and has had five fewer playoff appearances.
Gary Kubiak took the Broncos to and won Super Bowl 50 in his first year back in Denver as head coach, and brings the same competitive fire as Elway to the Mile High City.
But besides all the winning, the great constant here has been our fans.
We have sold out every game since the first games of 1970, and as that was Denver's official entry into the NFL standings. It can be accurately stated that the Broncos are the only non-expansion team in history to have never played an NFL home game before a non sellout. The Houston Texans have sold out every game, but they are just in their second decade of existence.
This has been a love affair for a heck of a long time, and I know fans are looking forward to joining the Broncos in bouncing back to our winning ways.
Coincidentally, the opponent and the date are the same as when we watched the Broncos stake claim to their first Super Bowl appearance.
That will not happen this week, but the stands will again rock with orange and we will point to the future from here, on New Year's Day once more.