By Dave Bruning
I was terribly saddened by the news of Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen relinquishing all control of his football team. Bowlen has been battling Alzheimer’s disease and can no longer effectively manage the Broncos. Bowlen now begins a lonely journey into what should be a beautiful Bronco orange sunset. Even worse, he likely won’t remember and that’s a damn shame for a man who has meant so much to Colorado.
There have been rumors in recent years the Bowlen was struggling with his health; including an admission to Woody Paige he had become forgetful. The Broncos organization did a wonderful job keeping this quiet and respecting the privacy of their leader. Kudos goes out to the Denver media as well, who I’m sure were aware of Bowlen’s condition but did not pursue the issue like a pack of New York wolves.
My first clue something was potentially wrong with Bowlen was the lack of his presence on the sidelines at games. He had always been such of visible, supportive owner. My favorite memory of him is on the sideline in that gaudy fur coat as John Elway led the Drive and changed the football fortunes of Denver, Colorado.
Bowlen purchased the Broncos in 1984, the year after Elway was drafted. It was not hard to see how much Bowlen has meant to Elway during the emotional press conference announcing Bowlen’s illness.
Bowlen has been a pillar of stone as an owner. His classy approach and “commitment to excellence” if I may borrow from Al Davis, have always wrung true with both the Denver and NFL communities. Perhaps the only truly poor decision I can recall he made was hiring Josh McDaniels. He gave a young coach sweeping power and it backfired. Perhaps this was symptomatic of the Alzheimer’s affecting his judgment. Either way, Bowlen fixed the mistake and the Broncos are back at the peak of the NFL, where they belong. Denver has the second best winning percentage in the NFL since Bowlen purchased the Broncos, behind only the San Francisco 49ers.
In addition to leading the Broncos, Bowlen was a respected and influential owner. He spearheaded efforts for the NFL in labor negotiations and television rights. His philanthropic efforts are too numerous to mention. I’d make a strong argument Pat Bowlen is the most influential figure in Colorado sports history.
Bowlen has never been about self-appreciation or basking in the limelight. The true sadness of Alzheimer’s is the lonely rode Bowlen faces, the lonely road all Alzheimer’s patients face. You can bet your ass Denver Broncos fans will never forget Pat Bowlen. The man deserves one more beautiful,