Then They Moved the Denver Broncos

The lack of concern over the relocation of the Chargers and Raiders might come back to bite other NFL fans and franchises. After all, there could be scenarios in the future, which cause the Broncos to move.

As a Broncos fan, the home locations of the Chargers and the Raiders have little impact on my NFL experience. The Chargers game is a slightly less desirable road game in Los Angeles. Las Vegas is a more exciting site than Oakland, and the loss of the Bay Area is sad for the AFC West.

The shrugs and disinterest at the moves are disconcerting—both from Broncos fans and NFL fans in general. Owners are taking advantage of diehard fans around the country and we’re acting like relocation will stop. With higher profits for owners who move teams, it’s not going to stop. Relocation is a part of NFL life now.

THE TRACKS OF MOVING TRUCK TEARS

The movement of franchises is nothing new. The pace just seems more rapid. The iconic Johnny Unitas’ Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis. Part of Cleveland fans’ misery was watching the Ravens win two Super Bowls with their old Browns team. They can’t even make the playoffs with the new team.

The heartbreak isn’t going to end anytime soon. If my summer in Seattle is any indication, the NBA SuperSonics are still discussed in mournful tones on an almost daily basis. Chargers fans will shake their heads sorrowfully as their biggest topic of conversation, Phillip Rivers, is gone. St. Louis will bury itself in baseball and pretend to not hear you when you bring up the NFL. Oakland will continue to be absorbed into Silicon Valley, as its Raiders’ culture leaves along with all of its other sports teams.

The reason for the move, of course, is money. The 29 NFL owners not moving are making $53 million each from relocation fees. Money continues to push owners to not address safety concerns in the NFL: long preseasons, Thursday night games and a possible schedule expansion are still on the table.

The Broncos seem highly unlikely to move. Buffalo, the Florida teams and cities in the rust belt are all more vulnerable. Then you have crazy owners like Washington’s Dan Snyder, who may just pull the nuclear option and move for unknown reasons.

In contrast, the Broncos are making everyone a lot of money. The Broncos have three Super Bowls and Von Miller. The Mountain West fan belt for the Denver Broncos runs from the Dakotas to New Mexico. For now, the money is pouring in.

Could the Broncos ever move? Sure they could. Here’s one very hypothetical scenario.

HOW DENVER LOSES THE BRONCOS

The Bowlen’s can’t decide on a new owner. Instead, they sell the team to a Kroenke-type owner, who feels no loyalty to Denver. There are a lot of bad owners in sports, including children of former owners. Finding an owner that has no ties to Denver would be the worst option.

Around the same time, Elway decides he’s finished running the Broncos. He pursues a career in politics or perhaps becomes a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Elway’s heir to the job doesn’t have the championship mindset or the football knowledge to carry the team. The Broncos miss the playoffs for a few years. Fans boycott the team like they did in the McDaniels’ era. The Broncos stop selling out games.

Meanwhile, the NFL’s effort to target more of a global audience finally pays off. Mexico City, Toronto or London offers huge sums of money to move the Broncos, more than Denver can match. The new owner, who doesn’t care about Denver fans, agrees to move.

A few owners are upset about what this will do to the league’s standing in the Mountain West. They plead with Commissioner Roger Goodell to keep the team in Denver. However, the checkbook price is too high, including relocation fees of close to $100 million dollars per team. The owners stop protesting and say, “Roger that, go ahead and move them”.

A group of Denver sports writers creates the Denver Broncos history project, to document “The Denver Years.” The Broncos becomes a relic museum tour that is largely ignored. The city is cursed. The Rockies, Avalanche and Nuggets never win another championship.

THE NFL’S MONEY PROBLEM

This whole exercise is depressing. The Broncos likely won’t move. Maybe this scenario plays out for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Tennessee Titans or the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s clear that franchise relocation is part of the culture of the NFL. That’s bad for any fan of an NFL team.

Think about how you feel about the Broncos. People felt that way about the Chargers, Rams and Raiders. They would have done anything to save their team and they could not.

No one started a sports league to make money in the beginning. They did it because they love their sport. They want to see it have a professional home to continue the careers of college players. In fact, owners of minor league franchises are told they will lose money for at least five years.

Money then takes over. It infects the games we love. It adds advertisements to jerseys and hurts competition with exhausting schedules. I don’t love sports for the money—I love it for the sense of belonging, the unpredictability and the history.

I will never root for the Mexico City Caballos or the Paris Chevals. It’s hard to watch a league put profits before fans—over and over again. They always have a choice. As fans, we should at least express more outrage over these moves. Instead the outrage will be ‘expressed’ by fans tuning into every Thursday night game and buying tickets to Las Vegas to watch the Broncos play the Raiders in 2020.

This post originally appeared on 5280 Sports Network, now a part of Mile High Sports