When the Broncos won their third Super Bowl deep into a frosty Denver night, people inside the Larimer Lounge jumped atop their barstools and roared.
Fans in LoDo poured out
into the streets in thick celebration. The 100 or so residents watching at The Crossing, a transitional shelter in northwest Denver, began to dance.
And that's also where tears streaked down Jody Doyle's wrinkled cheeks.
"I can't tell you how much this means to us," he said. "I'm just covered in sweat. My heart's racing.
"I can't believe this."
Denver fans burst into a cathartic celebration Sunday night, vanquishing the humiliation of a Super Bowl loss two years ago and reveling in the kind of joy that always seems to come by surprise.
"We're pretty pumped over here," Ryan Hudgins shouted from inside the Larimer Lounge. "It's a high octane environment."
Denver police quickly closed streets into downtown, to minimize conflicts in the revelry's aftermath. City officials announced a downtown parade, starting at noon on Tuesday for the newly crowned NFL champions — the kind of thing the whole city can feel a part of.
"They're jumping and dancing and screaming and smiling," Broncos fan Dorothy Wilson said of people celebrating at The Crossing, which is run by the Denver Rescue Mission. "It's pretty exciting over here."
The sudden burst of celebration contrasted sharply with the tension-filled day that came before. As the game approached Sunday afternoon, it was as if the city held its breath.
Downtown streets emptied out. Interstate 25? Tumbleweeds.
Fifteen minutes until kickoff, two lonely fans stood in front of Sports Authority Field at Mile High, reaching their arms out as far as possible to get a picture with the stadium in the background.
Antonio Castrillo and his son, Antonio Jr., were stopping off on their way to the airport. A lifelong Broncos fan, Antonio Jr. would be whooshing his way to Phoenix when the game was decided in the second half.
"I'm bummed," he said.
"I've been a little bit apprehensive about this Super Bowl. Because of what happened the last time."
That was the pit in ever Broncos fan's stomach. One way or another, the Broncos were going to make Super Bowl history this year. Either Peyton Manning would become the winningest quarterback of all time, or the Broncos would become the losingest Super Bowl team of all time.
So all across the city as the sun set, fans plugged their anxieties into their television sets, emotions rising and falling like the beats on a heart rate monitor.
At Becca Perry's house party in northwest Denver, friends watched with a happy giddiness.
"I think Karma is in our favor with this game," Perry said.
Not that her guests weren't willing to give it a boost. Jeff Balmes pointed to his socks, which featured Manning's face.
"Honestly," he said, "I wear these socks because I don't have any Peyton Manning underwear."
A few miles away at Orange Vader's party, hundreds of fans crowded into a warehouse, creating a stadium atmosphere.
A Broncos first down: cheers. A missed tackle: grimaces. And, when a sack led to a fumble led to a touchdown, chairs hit the floor as people jumped up.
"See, defense wins Super Bowls, right?" said James Chavez, who goes by the nickname Orange Vader for the costume he wears to Broncos home games.
At The Crossing, Doyle was hoarse by halftime.
"I always say a prayer for the Broncos," he said. "I've prayed for them every day."
For Sunday, at least, his prayers were heard.
"I'm just so beside myself," he said after the game. "It was just unbelievable. It was just so overwhelming."