December 06, 2009
If he wasn't the most famous fan in the NFL, Tim McKernan was close to the top. He was certainly the least-dressed.
Known throughout the NFL simply as Barrel Man, McKernan became renowned during the '80s and '90s for showing up to Broncos games dressed in nothing more than a barrel held up by suspenders. Even on the coldest of winter evenings in the Mile High City, there was McKernan: bare-chested as usual.
He started the tradition in 1977 after making a $10 bet that he could get on TV during a game. Thirty-two years later, after two Super Bowl wins, inductions into the fans Hall of Fame and a personal invite to John Elway's Hall of Fame induction and a nickname known throughout the NFL, McKernan was just as big a part of Denver's NFL tradition as any coach or player.
Saturday, he passed away at the age of 69 after a long illness.
The Denver Post has a nice obituary in today's editions, complete with stories of the barrel's orgin, the retirement ceremony given to him by the Broncos and McKernan's favorite opposing fans (the Raiders, surprisingly). Not mentioned is this rousing rendition of "I Love El-Way", which appeared on Denver-area TV stations in the late-'80s.
The Broncos play today on the road at Kansas City and won't return to Denver until Dec. 20 against the Oakland Raiders. Expect to see some barrel-clad fans paying tribute.
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