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My Favorite Moments: #11 – John Elway’s Helicopter

You only have so much time in this world. And with so many billions of people, you want to be remembered. You don’t want the world to just go on as if you were never there. And you want to be able to control the narrative of your story.

Up until 1998, John Elway was known as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But…there was a but. He couldn’t win the big game. Three times he took his Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl. Three times he was absolutely humiliated on the biggest stage in his sport. He had more fourth quarter comebacks than any quarterback in history, but he had zero Super Bowl rings. He, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly were the epitome of the AFC quarterback who couldn’t win it all.

At 37 years of age, old man Elway, along with running back Terrell Davis, brought his Broncos back to the Super Bowl. This time, they were facing the defending champions, the Brett Favre led Green Bay Packers. Most people favored the Packers to win and etch their names in history as back to back champions. John Elway was getting the sympathy vote, and people wondered if he would soon be remembered as one of the few quarterbacks to lose four Super Bowls.

A surprise to everyone, the game was actually close in the second half. Oh no! Was Elway being set up for a heartbreaking loss? Not if he had anything to say about it. Not while he could still write his own narrative.

Late in the third quarter with the score tied at 17, the Broncos were driving toward the end zone. Elway receives the ball in the shotgun, and withstands the initial Packers defense rush. Then he sees an opening. He can get a first down if he makes a run for it. But he’s not the John Elway of the 80’s, when he could run with the best of them. He’s an old man, with old man speed.

This is his chance, however, to change the narrative. This is his chance to change the way people remember him. This could possibly be his last chance to win the elusive Super Bowl trophy. He only has so many years left in him. He might not make it back ever again.

And so he goes for it.

It doesn’t matter that he’s moving at the speed of bureaucracy. It doesn’t matter that there’s only Packers jerseys in front of him. He goes for it. Instead of taking the easy way out as the quarterback and sliding feet first, Elway goes all in! He dives head first into three Packers players ready to destroy him. The players converge and Elway gets knocked forward, with his body spinning clockwise.

My god, he wants it so badly. Damn the consequences! He can live in an ice bath the next day! The Broncos get the first down. On the next play, Terrell Davis takes it home and the Broncos take the lead.

In the end, the Broncos win. Elway’s done it! He’s won his first Super Bowl! No longer will he be known as a lovable loser! Combine that with their win the following year, and the narrative for Elway has been completely changed. Elway retired after 1999, his mission was complete. Now he is known as a two time Super Bowl champion. Now he is known for winning back to back titles.

He’ll go down in history as a winner.

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