The Denver Broncos will play their first preseason game of 2009 on Friday night at San Francisco’s storied Candlestick Park. With a new head coach in Josh McDaniels and a bevy of new players, the CBS4 television audience promises to be a huge one.
It would be in any case, but particularly so with all the new elements thrown into the mix.
It wasn’t always that way.
This is the 50th anniversary of Broncos football, and just for the fun of it, let’s take a quick look back at some preseason games, sites and crowds from the Broncos’ very first season, the inaugural 1960 campaign.
We all know what pro football is today, but the early years of the American Football League in no way represented what we will be watching at a near sold out stadium in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities on Friday night.
In the early years, the teams schooled their own preseason games, playing who they could, where they could and when they could.
The Broncos’ first game was in Providence, Rhode Island before a scintillating crowd of 4,706 — a gem which Denver lost to the Boston Patriots by a 43-6 margin.
The team stayed east the following week, playing and losing to the Buffalo Bills by a convincing 31-14 margin before 6,200 curious onlookers in Rochester, New York.
The next game was finally in a major metropolitan area, Houston, but the venue was a high school field known as Jeppesen Stadium — that’s where the Oilers played their home games in their first few seasons. A relatively huge crowd of 19,500 watched the game (although the figures might have been inflated “just a bit”, as they sometimes did for early AFL games). In any case, the Broncos were pummeled, 42-3.
Denver continued its ignominious march through the preseason the following week in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the gold and brown (we were still two years away from being the orange and blue) got slaughtered (is there any better way to put it?) by AFL founder Lamar Hunt’s Dallas Texans, 48-0. So the Broncos had played the AFL’s two Texas franchises in back-to-back weeks and had rolled up a point differential of 90-3.
The preseason concluded in Los Angeles with the Broncos playing the Chargers in the Coliseum before 21,516, and the Coliseum ghosts that had witnessed Olympic events and classic college football matchups must have simply rolled their collective eyes. Los Angeles won by a 30-36 margin.
So the final tally for Denver that first preseason was an 0-5 record, played before a total attendance of merely 57,422. That would be a low figure for any NFL game played in 2009.
And oh yes, the Broncos were outscored by a composite point total of 200 to 53.
Who would have thought that the following week the Broncos would revisit the Patriots, to whom they had lost by 37 points on that dismal night in Providence, and create a historical footnote by winning the first regular season game in AFL history, 13-10 before a curious but respectable audience of 21,597?
In sports, the games are the building blocks of history, and the Denver Broncos begin their 50th season of play and a new historical era Friday night against the 49ers.