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Way Back When: How the 'in-com-plete' chant began


When the Denver Broncos face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, we can still expect a great crowd of the best fans in the NFL cheering on the Bronco, even though the season has not gone as anyone expected.

And one cheer that we know we will hear, hopefully many times, is that of "In-com-plete" by the Broncos fans whenever the Chiefs throw a pass that is not caught.

Most fans are not really familiar with the history of that chant, but it began against this very Kansas City franchise.

It was on Oct. 27, 1996, and the Broncos were in the midst of a season that would find them posting a 13-3 record, so they were having a great year and the fans were thrilled with the weekly results. We were playing the Kansas City Chiefs that day, a beautiful 44 degree Sunday afternoon with 75,652 fans in attendance.

The afternoon was going about the way a lot of games went against John Elway. The Broncos jumped ahead and never looked back.

In the third quarter with the Broncos up three scores, the Chiefs were forced to abandon their running game and lean on the arm of quarterback Steve Bono. At one point, the Chiefs threw the ball on 17 consecutive offensive plays.

It was during this span that the public address announcer, Alan Cass, made an inspired decision. Cass, who had been a legendary voice for the Buffaloes' football and men's basketball games, joined the Broncos was the team's announcer for 20 years.

He was not into screaming or yelling, but he had his own style. The closest example I can cite is Bob Sheppard, the late, great voice of the New York Yankees. His calls were unmistakable.

Alan was very specific in all of his calls, with perfect verbal pacing. He would say, for example, "That pass, by Bono, is in-com-plete." 

As one incompletion led to another, to the tune of what would be nine in a row, the crowd just picked up the chant and ended the final word of Alan's announcement for him.

It took on a life of its own and still is in place today.

The greatest chants among sports audiences are those that develop naturally among the fans, with no public relations or marketing departments trying to lead the way. So, too, was the case with this one.

It became so big that at one point the NFL told us we could not lead the crowd in that chant. I told them we were not doing so. Alan Cass was just making an announcement, and the crowd was chiming in. They had observers at the game, saw and listened for themselves.

It was our great fans doing it, then and now.

So today we have the latest game in this rivalry, the Broncos vs. the Chiefs, 26 years since the fans first drowned out Alan Cass.

Some of the fans have changed, as have the players and coaches, but one thing we can still expect is the chant of "IN-COM-PLETE."

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