Roll out the Broncos barrel
Like most people enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Tim McKernan was celebrated for his achievements in NFL stadiums. Unlike most, he never wore shoulder pads or a football helmet. In fact, he didn’t really wear much of anything except a cowboy hat and cowboy boots – and a barrel, emblazoned with the logo of his beloved Denver Broncos.
Better known as the Barrel Man to generations of Broncos fans, McKernan was a fixture at home games for 30 years. When the temperature dipped below freezing and the snow started swirling, fans at the Broncos’ old Mile High Stadium dared not complain. After all, there was the nearly naked Barrel Man, pacing the South Stands and hollering his support, heedless of the blizzard.
McKernan’s career as the Broncos’ most visible fan began with a wager he made with his brother: He bet $10 that if he went to a game wearing nothing but a barrel, painted to look like a can of Orange Crush, the cameras would show him on television. McKernan won the bet.
Seldom missing a home game from 1977 to 2007, McKernan’s legend spread beyond Colorado. He was in the inaugural class of nationwide superfans inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. Though McKernan died in 2009, a Barrel Man mannequin wearing one of his actual barrels is on permanent exhibit in the History Colorado Center in Denver. Visitors can even try on a replica barrel – though museum policy requires people to wear clothes underneath.