Contrary to popular belief, there are some in the Central Valley that don’t bow at the fleet feet of Colin Kaepernick or Terrelle Pryor.
The demographic is small, to be sure, but they count themselves among the loudest and proudest fans in all the NFL.
Their cheers will rule the weekend as the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos meet at the middle of MetLife Stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday afternoon. After 22 weeks of football, the Vince Lombardi Trophy will be decided by a tug of war between western division foes.
Just not the Central Valley’s beloved San Francisco 49ers or Oakland Raiders.
No, the game pits the league’s top defense and the King of Audacious, cornerback Richard Sherman, versus the league’s top offense and the King of Audible, quarterback Peyton Manning.
In fitting fashion, local super fans have taken on the persona of their favorite franchises.
Danny Munoz dons Champ Bailey’s No. 24 jersey, but he’s become well versed in the audible. The 34-year-old has proven to be a flexible fan, able to switch quickly out of a Sunday plan with the ease of Manning at the line of scrimmage.
Munoz grew up in Los Angeles, where the rival Raiders reigned supreme. Surrounded by all that silver and black, Munoz went against the grain, choosing the Denver Broncos and their playmaking quarterback John Elway. Plus, he really liked the color combination.
He reveled in the Broncos’ back-to-back Super Bowl championships in 1997 and 1998, and stuck by the franchise through Mike Shanahan’s lean years and the Josh McDaniel and Tim Tebow trial years.
“When you can hold out that long, you know you’re a real fan,” said Munoz’s wife, Jennifer.
Manning’s arrival in the Mile High city marked the beginning of a new era, and in fitting fashion, Munoz found himself making the most of a bad play during the Broncos’ playoff loss to the eventual champion Baltimore Ravens.
Munoz was forced to cheer his team from the waiting room of a dentist’s office after his daughter, Dominique, broke a bracket on her braces. She required emergency care – and her Dad’s strength.
Suffice to say, waiting room etiquette was not observed. Munoz screamed, yelled and pleaded with his Broncos through the first half.
“I still can’t believe we lost that game,” he said.
On the bright side: Dominique’s smile has never looked better.
Speaking of smiles, Mark Steckler, Steve Miller, Steve Cales and Irene Nevarez have been glowing neon green since Seattle’s thrilling win over the 49ers.
Nevarez and her young sons, Alan and Royal King, celebrated the Super Bowl berth at Rookies Sports Bar and Grill amid a sea of red and gold.
Transplanted members of Seattle’s fabled fan base, The 12th Man, the four are confident the Seahawks can cap one of the best seasons in franchise history with its first Super Bowl championship.
Miller and Steckler believe the game will come down to a single score. While neither can put a final score on their prediction, the two bird buddies believe Seattle by three points is no stretch.
Cales, meanwhile, walks and talks with Sherman’s swagger. In other words, “mediocre” is an apropos – if not generous – grade for the Broncos defense.
Born and raised in shadow of the Space Needle, Cales is calling for a blowout: Seahawks 29, Broncos 7 ... if they’re lucky.
The Legion of Boom anchors one of nastiest defensive units in franchise history, he says, a group that led the NFL in takeaways and fewest yards and points allowed.
“I was more afraid of the 49ers,” Cales said, drilling Denver’s 19th-ranked defense. “They were more of a squad.”
One thing is certain, on the biggest Sunday of the season, the Seahawks and Broncos will be the envy of the NFL, including the 49ers and Raiders.