Friday, June 14, 2013

This One's For You Lance

Today I found out that a sports fanatic friend and comrade passed away earlier this month.  His name was Lance and he and I were passionate fans of opposing teams.  Lance bled Broncos blue and orange, which made us natural football team enemies.

Lance, who resembled a younger, big-eyed Jackie Gleason, was from Colorado and only 42 years old when he passed on June 1st. His presence in our neighborhood, where selling items on our neighborhood street donated to him by would-be Goodwill donors, will be sorely missed.

He, like myself, transplanted to California years ago to get away from a wintry weatherland.  I admired Lance for staying true to his home teams, the Rockies and Broncos.  He would stop me on the street to brag about a Broncos win and taunt me about a Raiders loss. It was a greeting that was most welcome when the Raiders won, but like avoiding the neighborhood bully, after a silver and black loss I always contemplated an alternative route home. Lance could be brutal with his bashing critique of my team when they lost, and unfortunately the Raiders usually deserved the two-barrelled blast coming from Lance.

And when the Broncos lost I'd know immediately by spotting him from a block away; head bowed, eyes downward, slurred greeting as if he'd already drowned his pain in a pitcher of brew. I never could bring myself to bash his team as badly as he did the Raiders when they lost, mainly because he looked and sounded so pitiful.  It was those times that he and I had our best conversations;  no hype, no wisecracks, just Lance being his humble sports loving self sharing remedies for improvement.

When the Broncos acquired QB Peyton Manning, Lance was like one of those sports fans who knew they had an elite team. His hollow Broncos boasting of previous years became like a sharp cutting utensil in the hands of a gensu chef; it sliced both ways and served up opposing teams on a platter with all the trimmings.  Afterward, If the opposition happened to be the Raiders, the big palooka would give that wide cheshire cat smile and say "aw man, come'on, you know I'm just joshing you."

Yeah, Lance was a good'ol sports soul, loyal and commited to his Broncos as much as I to my Raiders.  He actually loved all the bay area teams and only bashed my Raiders to keep our friendship honest and true, always with a apology and "no hard feelings" comment. With him in the hospital during the Warriors/Nuggets matchup, we both missed a grand opportunity to trash and bash.

Once, when I found a secondhand book on the history of the Denver Broncos and gave it to him as a gift he was speechless; then when I gave him the John Elway greatest comebacks video he damn near cried. And I must admit, taking a peek at that video did change my opinion of the greatness of Elway. Thanks Lance!

At times the big fella could look mean and uninterested in life as it passed by, but you refer to his Broncos and it lit a fire in him that would burn long after the lengthy conversation of greatest football team comparisons ended.  Again, the man loved his Broncos and football as much as a boy loves his momma or pet pooch.

I'll miss my friend and the times we had talking football, the thrill of victory and agony of defeat.  More than anything though, I'll miss those moments of just sharing life with a fellow comrade who knew how to be a friend.

Win, lose or tie, Lance always looked forward to his teams' next scheduled battle.  He may have lost the battle with his medical condition, but has won the trophy for a life of fellowship.  Rest well my brother in arms, and for the first time ever I'll toast to a Broncos season of success.  I won't go so far as to say I love'em and want to see them in the championship game, but they'll receive less of my hatred and contempt this season.  I know you'd do the same for me and my Raiders.

Cheers Lance! Cheers.

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