Who could turn down the opportunity to be in Denver and witness the city's reaction to their crowning achievement and first Super Bowl since 1998? I was so sure of their impending victory that I encouraged people to invest their hard earned money through my IrishCentral column. When the opportunity arose to be in Downtown Denver for game day, I snatched at it.
The sign outside the door said "Free Irish Car Bombs for every Broncos Touchdown". Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I ventured in. Hosting the most touchdowns in NFL season history and armed with the greatest regular season quarterback of all time under center, we were quietly confident that we could board the Peyton Manning train all the way to the drunk house. Judging by the crowd in Nallen's Irish Bar, in downtown Denver, so too were many others.
However, upon entering the bar, I encountered my first hiccup. One of the patrons of the bar was a Mayo man, clad head to toe in Broncos merchandise. If ever there was an omen for a team being on the end of a beating, this was it.
Despite losing the coin toss, the Broncos received the ball first which lead to a palatable feeling in the bar that we could be in for early car bombs. The resulting safety led to a varied reaction in the bar.
What I have come to find about the Super Bowl - especially from an Irish perspective - is the importance of ones "box". As America is such a puritan society, these boxes are illegal and as such me or my friends would have nothing do to with such behavior.
However from what I can gather though these games are popular. A 10 x 10 grid is comprised of these so-called "Super Bowl boxes" and fans can purchase any number of boxes on the matrix. The horizontal and vertical axes of the matrix are then each given a random number from 0 to 9, with one axis representing the last digit of the AFC team’s final score, and the other representing the last digit of the NFC team’s score. The owner of the box that matches the last digit of the final score of both teams wins.
The payout depends on the amount of money in the prize fund but typically vary widely from $1000 to $100,000. As scores in the NFL generally come in 3 and 7 points, certain scores are much more favorable then others. Except for when there is a 2 point safety. When this happens, people who we earlier laughed at for having numbers like 9 and 5, suddenly sit up to take notice of the game. When Denver's Knowshon Moreno, touched the ball down inside his own end zone, many people cheered.
This is what I found most unsettling about watching the game in Denver. When the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins is 2011, Vancouver natives took to the streets to riot. So to did Glasgow Rangers fans in 2010 when their UEFA Cup chances went down the tubes. When Thierry Henry's hand ball led to Ireland not going to the World Cup, I personally joined in the throwing of (plastic) beer glass at the screen in the UCD Student Bar. (Seriously there must have been 300 glasses thrown.
Obviously they were empty because well we were students, so about 0.000001% actually hit the screen due to the fact that the coverage of a thrown empty plastic beer cup is approximately 1.2 meters. But you get the point). The Denver Broncos took the beatings of all beatings but the bar still gave away free Irish Car Bombs. Does Western sensibilities not allow for the outpouring of self-pity that comes from seeing your sports team lose?
At half time we regrouped with $2 cans of PBR and told ourselves that this was set up for a grandstand finish, a Super Bowl for the ages. Then Percy Harvin took the kickoff to the house. 29-0 Seahawks.
Game over. At the bar the Mayo man sobbed into his pint. In a gesture of condolence I told him he should be surely used to a beaten like this given Mayo's 0-7 record in All Ireland Final's since their last win in 1951. Due to Colorado's recent legislative changes, he went to find nirvana of another kind in the smoking area. By the fourth quarter all hope of any of us winning some money were done and we were left to survey the empty bar. The people of Denver had left long before Seahawks coach Pete Carroll got a bath of Gatorade. Disgruntled I headed out into the cold Denver evening. I had put a commentator's curse on the Broncos and I just hoped the locals didn't find out.