By Mark Kiszla
The Denver Post
January 8, 2012
Just because the 8-8 Broncos don't really deserve home-field advantage in the NFL playoffs, does that mean Denver should surrender its stadium to Terrible Towel-waving invaders from Pittsburgh?
There ought to be a dress code for NFL fans.
"Say that again?" Broncos cornerback André Goodman asked.
My modest proposal: Any fan caught wearing Steelers colors should have his ticket confiscated and be promptly escorted to the exit.
Think I'm kidding?
"It's hard way to make money with a rule like that. At the end of the day, that's what it comes down to in America: making money," Goodman said. "So I don't see a rule like that happening anytime soon."
Well, you can be denied admission to a nightclub for wearing tattered jeans. There are gourmet restaurants that require gentlemen to wear a coat. Am I right?
So why should any loudmouth lout in Steelers garb be allowed inside Sports Authority Field, when quarterback Tim Tebow puts his job and Super Bowl dreams on the line against Pittsburgh?
"Well, you don't want to let Pittsburgh get up on top of you early, because you will hear those Steelers fans," Goodman said. "You want to say those fans are not a factor, but they can definitely be a factor if you let them get on top of you early and those Steelers fans are sounding a lot louder than your fans. That lets you know: 'We're not playing so well.' "
See? It is possible. If there are in excess of 15,000 Steelers fans in attendance, the interlopers can seize momentum. This could be especially problematic for the Broncos, who went 3-5 at home this season.
"Fans watch the game. They don't play it. The game is entertainment for them. It's business for us," Denver linebacker Mario Haggan said. "I don't care how many Steelers fans are in the stadium. If we go about our business, they'll be quiet."
Untold thousands of people across America wear Tebow jerseys, not because they were born as Broncos fans, but because they were raised in a church. And that's cool. Honoring an athlete for a greater cause than his ability to find the end zone is why the sight of Brian Piccolo's No. 41 in the bleachers always makes me smile.
But a fan waving a gold towel in your face while rocking a Ben Roethlisberger jersey during a Denver home game is basically shouting to everybody in the stadium: Go ahead, try telling me to shut up. I dare you!
Sure, some would argue a middle-aged visitor who wears Pittsburgh colors to a Denver game is exercising freedom of expression and the very American right to hide his Iron City Beer gut with an XXL black jersey that has "Polamalu" stitched on the back.
"The real Troy Polamalu might make a tackle wearing a Steelers jersey," Haggan said. "But a fan wearing a Polamalu jersey in the stands isn't going to make a play."
Discussion of Tebow's completion percentage or long-term viability as an NFL quarterback can spark an argument capable of dividing families. But there can be little debate about the real magic of this young quarterback. Rooting for the local NFL team has too often felt like penance in recent years. There's something about No. 15 that has made Broncomania feel as fresh as 1977 again.
So it would feel very, very wrong if the first NFL playoff game the town has seen in six seasons slipped into something akin to the wicked pissah party for Boston that the World Series became at Coors Field. Would Denver dare let the Steelers steal its home field?
"It's still going to be Mile High Stadium. The game is still going to be here in Denver. And we're still going to have our fans cheering for us," rookie linebacker Von Miller said. "But we definitely want to get this win for Broncos Nation."
From the carbo-overload of pierogies to the bohemian master strokes of Andy Warhol, I love Pittsburgh.
Guests in a Colorado stadium, however, should not be allowed to put their feet on the furniture and trample the hearts of Broncomaniacs.
It would make Denver look weak as a football city.
Mark Kiszla: 303-954-1053 or firstname.lastname@example.org