Broncos superfan Hat Man on getting shot at in Kansas City -- and six other incredible stories
Devoted Broncos fans probably remember the greatest among their ranks, Tim "Barrel Man" McKernan, as the guy who wore nothing but a barrel with overalls to pretty much every home game -- rain or shine -- from 1977 to 2007 (though he attended, fully-clothed, nearly every game ten years beyond that). McKernan died in 2009, and though we will probably never see another fan with the same flair and reckless devotion to tradition, we caught up with his brother-in-arms, best man and fellow Hall of Fans member, "Hat Man" Jay Hocking.
Big photos below.
He gave us a lifetime of blue-and-orange stories to chew on -- seven of which you can read below:
For 25 years, Hat Man and his equally devoted wife, Valerie, have not missed a single home game And they've got the stories to prove it: From getting shot at in hostile territory to trying to sneak away with a piece of the old Mile High, we bring you the Hat Man's seven greatest stories of Broncos glory. Enjoy.
7. How Hat Man got his name:
"I used to drive nights for the Pueblo Chieftain. I would go 100 miles or sixty miles west up in the mountains to Salida, delivering all the bundles of newspapers. Or I would go a couple hours East to Lamar at night, but there was a guy there that showed up one time with a knit top hat and it was grey, and I said, 'I gotta have one of those, and it's gotta be orange.' So I had his wife make me one, and then I needed another one for Valerie. So I got the orange one. She got the blue one. We started going to games and we always, always sat in the South Stands.
"We basically cut our teeth and grew up in the South Stands. The South Stands always had the reputation of being the rowdiest. They were the cheap seats of the stadium. They were added on later, basically as an afterthought to that stadium. There were these long fiberglass-covered benches, and if you weren't wearing the right clothes, you'd get little splinters from the fiberglass...The least expensive seats in the stadium -- jeez, how do I say this -- I don't want to say it attracted a bad element, but it was different. We were all different, you know? To kind of clean up the image, Valerie and I had the hats. I said, 'You know what? I could get a tux, get a coat.'
"But they don't make orange coats. So I went everywhere I could find tux rentals. The only thing I could find was a white coat. 'Well, I'll grab one of those and dye it orange.' So I threw the coat in the bathtub with the orange dye and stirred it all up, and it came out all blotched all over. It didn't work. But I had an orange bathtub, so that's kinda what I ended up with that. Eventually, I found somebody who would make me a tailor-made orange tux, and it started out with the jacket, and I said, 'Well, you know, I gotta get the shirt. I gotta get the vest, the whole thing, the bowtie [and, of course, the hat.]'"
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