Victor Marquez—the guy whose seat you're in—is 80. He grew up two blocks from here. He remembers when this was a garbage dump. Then Bears Stadium, a Triple A ballpark, was built in 1948, and it was enlarged to create Mile High when the Broncos were formed in 1960. Victor's had his tickets since '67 too. He says he would have had them earlier, but there was no need. That was when the Broncos had those vertical stripes on their stockings and played in the old AFL. They were terrible, but for five bucks you could buy a ticket and sit just about anywhere. When the AFL merged with the NFL and tickets became a hot item, he and his brother, Jo-Jo, the one who sparred with Willie Pep and Sandy Saddler, decided they liked the South Stands best of all, so that's where they went.
The Oletski brothers? The big guys? They're second generation. Their dad, Ben, bought season tickets just about the same time Victor and Kathryn did. At first Ben went to the games with his brother, but Ben's wife, Marilyn, started pestering him about taking her to the games. Ben finally said he would. But on the day of the game, there was a terrific snowstorm. Marilyn bundled up and grabbed a shovel and headed toward the door.
"What do you think you're doing?" Ben said. "Three feet of snow are out there."
"I'm going to shovel out," Marilyn replied, "so we can go to the game."
"My father looked at her," Greg Oletski, the brother with the shaved head, says. "He said, 'O.K., I'll take you to the game. But the first time you start pissing and moaning, we're coming home, and you're never going to another game.' They went to every game for the next 27 years."
When they were kids, Greg, now 37, and his brother, Ray, 40, would sit at home and listen to the games on radio. They were Broncos fans too. They had pennants of all the NFL teams on their bedroom wall and rearranged them each week according to the standings in each division.
Ben bought a third ticket and started taking Ray when he was 12. When Greg turned 12, he and Ray alternated games. A year later Carrie, their sister, was added to the rotation. Eventually more tickets became available, and all the kids went to every game. Eventually Ben and Marilyn stopped going. Eventually Ray and Greg each got married and brought other people. Carrie invited Harold Lif to go to the games with her. "He wasn't my boyfriend or anything, just a friend," Carrie says. "I wanted someone to go with because my brothers were married." Now both my brothers are divorced, but I'm still going to the games with Harold."
The Sopers (those are John Sr.'s knees in your back, remember) are second and third generation. John Sr.'s father, Frank, also bought tickets early in Broncos history. Frank was a character. "He was a big man," John Sr., 60, says. "Pleasant, but tough. A real type A. The one thing he hated was people walking in front of him on the way out of the parking lot after games, so he just drove over 'em, hit 'em. We'd leave the game, and he had this big car, and people would be pounding on the side after he hit 'em—the car was all banged up, all these dents on the side—and he'd keep going."
"My first memory of a Broncos game, I must have been about seven, was of my grandfather driving out of that parking lot," Soper's son John Jr. says. "He just hit some guy. Bam! The guy punched the side of the car with a full fist. Bam! My grandfather kept driving."
Now John Sr. brings his sons to the games. John Jr., 36, lives in Salt Lake City, where he is a district manager for Payless Shoe Source. He starts driving on a Friday night or Saturday morning, a minimum of eight hours on the road, sometimes with his wife and two kids, sometimes alone, then drives back after the game on Sunday. Tom, John Sr.'s other son, is a doctor in suburban Sterling. He comes to the games when he can, but he has to miss them when he is on call. That is when Dan Gabbron, John Sr.'s grandson, gets the ticket. That's Dan in the fatigues.