|09-17-2007, 03:26 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Guardian angels? Shanny calls 'em D-Will, D-Nash
By Mark Kiszla
Denver Post Staff Columnist
In the happy wake of yet another Broncos victory so strange and improbable it felt like an answered prayer, we dare ask a question that stirs all the powerful passions of sports and spirituality.
Do you believe in ghosts? And can they stand in the huddle alongside a football team with a game on the line?
After Denver beat Oakland 23-20 in overtime, with what seemed a certain loss transformed to victory by no more than a width of a goal post, coach Mike Shanahan left little doubt he believes deceased players Darrent Williams and Damien Nash had a hand in the outcome of the second miracle finish in as many weeks of this young NFL season.
"I'm sure they had a lot to with it," Shanahan said Sunday. "I'm not sure which one Darrent had and which one Damien had, but obviously, they are doing some work upstairs."
In a season the team dedicated to D-Will and D-Nash, the Broncos already have won twice after all appeared lost, both times causing hearts to race until the game's final play, only to see kicker Jason Elam end the drama against Buffalo and Oakland with field goals that caused everyone to dance off with joy.
Is this pure, dumb luck at work, or karma more potent than a long, cool drink of spirituality?
"I'm trying to figure out who is the culprit: Darrent or Damien. Probably both," Shanahan said.
Some listeners averted eyes in discomfort as Shanahan described the mysterious ways in which his undefeated team topped its crazy final drive against the Bills in the season opener by escaping the Raiders after the hated rivals had prematurely celebrated in Denver's home stadium, only to see a long field goal in overtime by Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski wiped out by a timeout and his second stab at the kick clank off an upright.
Football is such religion in America that Shanahan is certainly not alone in thinking angels can have a rooting interest in the outcome of NFL contests.
But religion can also be such an intensely private matter that the mere suggestion of any link to something so down and dirty as the grunting and clawing found in football's trenches could be considered silly, if not downright disrespectful.
"I'd like to think somebody is always smiling down on me," Broncos cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. "But I think it's kind of selling those two guys short. I think (Williams and Nash) are more important to us than a couple of football wins. We're happy to get any wins that we can. But they could've smiled down on us a lot earlier, if that's what people think is going on."
Traces of Williams, murdered on the streets of Denver early New Year's Day, and memories of Nash, who dropped dead at age 24 barely a month after his teammate, are everywhere you look in the presence of the Broncos.
The numbers they wore for the team are on decals affixed to every helmet when Denver takes the field. On a grease board in the winning locker room was scrawled a plea for players to show up later this week at a teen center named to keep the spirit of Williams alive. As Javon Walker, who caught eight passes for 101 yards against the Raiders, walked out the door, he carried a replica of a boxer's championship belt decorated with photos of both dead men and a golden Broncos logo.
"We dedicated this season to those guys," said Elam, whose 23-yard field goal with 5 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in overtime erased a fourth-quarter collapse in which the Broncos had clumsily squandered what once was a 14-point lead. "We're playing our hearts out for them all season."
There is no doubt the Broncos have resolved to seize every day that death has robbed them of Nash and Williams.
The mixing faith and football, however, invites so many indelicate questions of why.
If these twists in what has quickly become a strange, wonderful road for Denver somehow ends at the Super Bowl, there will be bittersweet tears shed and genuine smiles of appreciation for the strength given by dearly departed teammates.
The inevitable heartaches of every NFL season might only grow heavier, however, should the Broncos feel as if they are letting down Williams and Nash.
This team, however, seems convinced it is playing for something stronger than 75,000 screaming voices that can shake a stadium when Denver scores a touchdown.
In an age when sports are too often all about the money, who is anyone to doubt the Broncos for taking the field stoked with a purpose of honoring deceased friends they believe are watching?
"Somebody is pulling for us," Shanahan said. "I know that."
|09-17-2007, 03:59 AM||#3|
6-37, Raider fans.
Join Date: Aug 2004
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|09-17-2007, 05:28 AM||#4|
A verbis ad verbera
Join Date: Mar 2006
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