On Sunday, February 8th, the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50, and while it is a great big win for the city of Denver and the state of Colorado, Alzheimer’s advocates can claim a small victory here too.
You see Pat Bowlen husband, father, businessman, philanthropist, owner of the Broncos has Alzheimer’s; he was diagnosed with it few years ago. And the attention that came with a Broncos win each step of the way leading to SB50, had a celebratory platform without the owner Bowlen.
So each time, a cheer was yelled, “this is for Pat”, it was a cheer for Alzheimer’s awareness because those who know of his illness recognized why he wasn’t with the team and those who may have wondered why the Broncos owner hasn’t been around had to ask the question, thus bringing awareness to the illness.
Bowlen bought the Denver Broncos in 1984 and had been a welcomed presence in and out of the locker room. He had been an architect in helping to guide the Broncos to six Super Bowl appearances and two world championships in 1997 (SB XXII) and in 1998 (SB XXIII). In 2014 he relinquished control of the team when he acknowledged he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Bowlen had revealed years prior to 2014 that he had been experiencing short-term memory; and though that doesn’t always mean an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it will be prevalent as it progresses.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, with over five million Americans living with the disease. It is a progressive brain disorder that affects memory and thinking skills. It is not an old person’s disease though age is a risk factor. And though there are new treatments being discovered and used to slow the worsening of symptoms and improve quality of life, it is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the only one without a cure.
From 2014 until now, I can only imagine Pat Bowlen’s condition today having been a caregiver to my mother. I don’t know for certain, but I’m sure his cognition skills have changed, his memory of places, people and events have decreased yet somehow in the way Alzheimer’s affects the brain, he knows his beloved Broncos. Though we hear that he knew his team won the Super Bowl, he may not remember that he’s the owner, a husband or father, but I’m sure he feels the love of the game, the love of his fans, the love of his family, Alzheimer’s changes the person, but never the love. And wasn’t that ironically the theme of the halftime show…love.
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