"Everybody knows everybody else in our section," John Jr. says. "It's nice. Sometimes you don't see these people anywhere else except at the games. But when the next season starts, you pick right up."
For a long time, Victor Marquez would go to the games with his wife, Pat, and son Mike, both of whom suffered from muscular dystrophy. Victor always parked in a handicapped space right near the stadium—for years he would have to get in line at some city office and stay there overnight before the season to sign up for that spot-but the walk to the seats was still filled with peril for Pat and Mike. Soper Sr. noticed this while driving through the lot on Sundays, and he started a ritual. Every week he would arrive with his two sons and have them escort Pat and Mike to their seats.
"We did this for a few years," Soper Sr. says. "It wasn't any big deal. Then one summer, about 27 years ago, I had trouble with my garage-door opener. I called a place, the V&A Door Company, to have it fixed, and who shows up? Victor. I never knew that was his business. It turned out, he lived in Westminster, not too far from us. We got to talking, and he said, 'Hey, I have a van. Parking is tough. Why don't you and your boys come to the games with me? I have a lot of room.' So we did."
Pat died in 1991 and Mike, now 44, is too frail to go to the games anymore, but the arrangement remains in effect. The Sopers arrive at Victor's house on the morning of the game, and Victor—80 years old, remember—still takes the wheel. "He's sort of like Mr. Magoo," John Jr. says. "He's this little guy, sitting up there in this big van, talking away, looking everywhere as cars jam on their brakes. It's hilarious."
"Put it this way," John Sr. says. "At an amusement park you would have to pay five bucks for the ride that Victor gives us."
So this is the basic group. Get comfortable. Relax. Victor now sits with members of his family, and Kathryn, whose husband died in 1996, sits with her daughter, or a friend. Greg Oletski, who this year took custody of his 12-year-old son, Zach, sometimes gets an extra ticket, but this is the core group in Section DD. There are other people, on the edges, to know about. Like Eric Hayes, who isn't here because his mother-in-law is getting married today, and that group of 10 metro Denver firemen on the other side of the aisle, the ones who get into a jam every now and then. There are characters to know from Section DD history, like Leroy, the big guy who now has a job moving the chains down on the field, and the heavyset woman who used to dress up as the Bronco Bunny (she stopped coming after her husband died)... but this is the basic group.
You will probably notice that this group doesn't do a lot of drinking, not anymore. Victor used to bring a bunch of stuff in the van for a pregame tailgate, even though he doesn't drink, but he stopped a few years ago. A friend, a policeman, got him nervous about even carrying open liquor bottles in the van. Greg will fill up a couple of plastic squirt bottles with "whatever I can find around the house, usually peppermint schnapps," and he'll have a celebratory shot after each Broncos touchdown—not field goals, never—with his brother and sister and Harold, but that's it.
The one betting ritual also involves the Oletskis. Greg collects two bucks at the start of each game from whoever wants to play. (Are you in?) Sometimes the pot is $10, sometimes it's as much as $30. The money is passed from left to right, then back again, from one person to the next after every point—even an extra point—scored during the game. The person holding the money at the end of the game gets the pot.
Football, however, is the really big thing. Not so much football as the Broncos. "I'm not a football fan," John Soper Sr. says. "I'm a Broncos fan. I want to see the them win."
"It's different now with the Rockies, the Nuggets and the Avalanche in town," Victor says. "For such a long time, the Broncos were the only thing we had."