Denver is pretty tough to hate.
It’s probably the only NFL city that rivals the Northwest when it comes to natural beauty.
And with the Seahawks and Denver no longer AFC West division mates, the twice-a-year occasions to break out those “Bronco Buster” T-shirts are things of the past.
But it’s hardly impossible to hate Denver.
If you want to muster up a little extra vitriol for today’s game, here are five reasons that ought to help:
1. JOHN ELWAY
No native son has been more of a thorn in the side of Washington sports fans than Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway. Born in Port Angeles and enshrined in the Pullman Walk of Fame (he attended Pullman High as a freshman), Elway has repeatedly nagged the Seahawks and he usually got the upper hand. And now, one win away from a championship, the Seahawks must once again go through Elway, the Broncos’ general manager.
2. THE HIT
It was 1988 when Denver safety Mike Harden became the most hated man in the Northwest by crushing the Seahawks most beloved player, receiver Steve Largent. The illegal hit was so hard it broke Largent’s facemask and knocked out two teeth. But fans got over this later in the season when Harden intercepted a Dave Krieg pass and found himself getting leveled by Largent. Harden fumbled the ball and Largent recovered.
3. JEFF CIRILLO
Jeff Cirillo was an all-star third baseman for the Colorado Rockies and would have finished his career with a batting average north of .300 if it weren’t for his two years with the Mariners. In 2002, the M’s traded three players for Cirillo to bolster a team that won a record-tying 116 games the previous year. Instead, he hit .249 in ’02 and .205 in ’03 before Seattle traded him to San Diego. The Mariners haven’t been to the playoffs since.
4. GELBAUGH’S MOMENT
The highlight of former Seahawks quarterback Stan Gelbaugh’s career cost the Seahawks a chance to draft WSU quarterback Drew Bledsoe. It came against Denver in 1992 when Gelbaugh was called off the bench during Monday Night Football and rallied the Seahawks for an overtime victory. Exciting, for sure, but it proved to be just another piece of bad luck in a 2-14 season. Had they lost, the Seahawks would have had the No. 1 pick in the 1993 draft and likely would have landed Bledsoe. Instead, they used the No. 2 pick on Rick Mirer, who finished his career throwing three interceptions for every two touchdowns.
5. THE NUGGETS
The 1993-94 Nuggest are easily the best reason to dislike Denver. Led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, the Seattle SuperSonics entered the playoffs as the favorites to win the NBA championship. That didn’t change when they beat Denver in the first two games. Then, suddenly, the season fell apart, Denver won three in a row and Nuggets center Dikembe Mutombo was crying tears of joy while clutching the ball and lying on the Seattle Center Coliseum floor. It was the first time a No. 1 seed ever lost in the first round.