As we prepare to play the San Francisco 49ers in London this week, in the eighth overall but first regular season international game in Denver Broncos history, a lot of memories come back to me. I thought readers might enjoy hearing a few.
In the case of every one of those games, I was there (on site in the international city) for a full week, and in every case but one, I was there a full week ahead of the team to do media.
The league would set up a media tour, and we would head out, the other team’s PR rep — usually a good personal friend, as well — and I, with the league rep, and a driver would make a personal visit to the major newspapers, television and radio stations to set up advance stories, plant ideas, photo opportunities and so forth.
Then we had a full week of practice with the team, interviews by international press and those members of the American press who came over for the game, played the game and flew home.
And everything does not always go as planned.
First game, in London, after the game the hot water did not work in the Broncos showers. Except for the first guys to hit the showers, others were washing up at a sink, or in some cases, not at all. Nice ride home over the Atlantic.
Another time, in Tokyo, not enough towels in our locker room. So one of our operations guys essentially “took” towels from an area that did not belong to the Broncos. This was not well received.
Another time, in Tokyo, the team buses took off for the airport and left me at the stadium. Really, really funny (unless you were me). Fortunately, one of the other guys left behind was our KOA radio game producer, Chris Visser. And as it happens, Chris is fluent in Japanese. He convinced the driver of a different bus, reserved for an NFL marketing group of guests, that we were his riders, and essentially we absconded with the bus and headed to the airport, where we met up with the Broncos party.
The team would not have cared, but of course, the PR people have the copies of the game stats, as I did, so I was well received. Not because anyone cared that I personally caught up with them, or course, but that I had the stats with me.
The Japanese invented the business card, as you may know, so it was important to know the proper protocol of how to accept a card, and how to treat it while a meeting is under way. Naturally, I was well versed in this and was well received by the Japanese. However, I observed some media members who behaved like real clods in this regard, and the Japanese interpreters had negative and amusing comments to make to me afterwards.
Sometimes we tried to have a “local” on our team with us for the game.
In Sydney we decided to sign an Australian punter for the game the week before. But I was virtually the only Bronco PR person there the week ahead, so I set up the signing, organized a press conference, had him sign a contract (it was a completely blank legal sized document of several pages, all blank, and then after he signed, we all headed to the park across the street where he punted a bunch of balls for the Australian press. Very well received.
When we played in Mexico City we signed Marco Martos, a Mexican wide receiver, for the game. You never heard of him? I know that, but he was a major star of American football in Mexico. I mean, big. A big, big star.
All week long, the week before, as we visited media site after media site, my counterpart from the Dolphins, Harvey Greene, would point out that his team had Dan Marino. I would point out that my team had Marco Martos. Never in his career were Harvey and Dan dismissed with more disdain. Harvey told me he was thoroughly schooled in PR that week, and we had some great laughs about it.
We let Marco Martos return all the kickoffs in the game, which became several, and the crowd of 104,629 just went crazy. Truly crazy. There was a moat around the field, because Mexico City’s Estadio Guillermo Canado is generally used for soccer games, and there is a high chain link fence surrounding the moat.
When Marco Martos did a postgame interview on the field postgame, fans crossed the moat and tried to scale the fence to get close enough to touch Martos. I have never been happier to get a postgame interview over with and get the player into the safety of a locker room.
It was in Tokyo that Terrell Davis had his coming out party as a player, but it was not as a running back, but rather as a kickoff cover guy. He lit up a couple of San Francisco kick returners and it was there that the Denver press realized what our coaches already knew — that one way or another, TD was going to be a big time player.
Tokyo has the biggest paper in the world, the Yomiyuri Shimbum, and they had a lot of requests. They were there when John Elway did an autograph session as a Tokyo sporting goods store. John Elway is so big, world wide, before the session ended they wound up having to close off traffic around two blocks of the store, because the people standing in line took up that much space, trying to get to John. Kind of scary, but we made it through without incident, and could just chuckle at it-when it was over.
Along the way we have always tried to have some fun.
We had a dinner cruise on the Thames River in London, and we will again this year, went to the Berlin Zoo (our hotel was right next door) and toured Berlin, with the Brandenburg Gate a real highlight — I went with my great friend Harvey Greene (again we played the Dolphins).
That reminds me of another story in Mexico City. Harvey and I went to see the pyramids, which was terrific, but Harvey insists on public transportation, and did not want to take a taxi back into Mexico City. So we waited on a dirt road for a public bus. Finally, one came, and the passengers were quite a variety of Mexico City residents, including one who had a live chicken with him. I expressed my great displeasure with Harvey’s decision to forego the taxi, but he is just such a great friend, all we did was laugh about it.
We just tried to keep our heads down until we got back to the hotel.
Lots of memories, which is what you have left when the travel is over, the trip is ended, and you and your luggage are safely home.