Behind Enemy Lines
Amidst a sea of Hawks fans, two SU electricians pull for Broncos
The moment you walk into their shop office you get a sense of what it's like for SU electricians Jay Heitman and Jim Tolton to be fans of the Denver Broncos in this Seahawks-crazed town.
From the stat sheets that hang over their colleague Antonio Arteaga's desk, detailing Denver's lopsided losses in past Super Bowls, to a Photoshopped picture of Heitman surrounded by Bronco cheerleaders while wearing matching garb-it's clear there's some serious Sherman-esque trash-talking going on in the basement of the Lee Center these days.
It's all good-natured, of course. "There's a lot of camaraderie here, so it's fun," says Heitman. "I've got pretty thick skin so I can pretty much deal with it."
A Seattle native, Heitman has never actually set foot in Colorado, not to mention the Mile-High City. "Growing up we didn't have the Seahawks, so I was a Denver Broncos fan," he explains. "I could have picked the Raiders, but I never would've done that," he says with a laugh.
Tolton hails from Denver and makes it back to visit family and attend the occasional Bronco game. "My mother is still in Colorado. She's 86 and a very avid Bronco fan. I enjoy calling her and hearing the TV blaring in the background while she's watching the game."
United as the two longtime Facilities employees are in their fandom, they have very different styles. "I'm the loud Broncos fan," explains Heitman, "and Jim's the quiet one."
Heitman, who's been at SU for 33 years, is methodical in choosing what Bronco gear to wear to work the day after a game. It depends on the outcome. "I take the bus and all the commuters can tell when we win because I wear my bright orange hat. If we lose, I wear my more subdued hat. It's a bit of a ritual for me."
While Tolton has maintained his hometown allegiance since moving to Seattle in 1982, his children have adopted the local customs and mores-which is to say they root for the Hawks. Same goes for Heitman's family. Asked if that ever makes for a tense dynamic, Tolton, a 20-year SU veteran, responds, "I bite my tongue a little bit because my kids are fairly young and I don't want to ruin it for them."
Heitman recalls attending a Seahawks-Broncos game with his son back when the teams were AFC West rivals. "We couldn't do anything right that day and the Seahawks just demolished us." Clad as he was in Broncos gear, Heitman received some ribbing from the local fans. "My son asked me, 'Why do you wear your Broncos stuff?' and I said, 'Because I'm a Bronco fan and I'm proud of it.'"
Even still, Heitman and Tolton both pull for the Hawks when the outcome has no bearing on the Broncos' fortunes. For Heitman, a Seahawks Super Bowl win won't be too bitter a pill to swallow. "These are my two favorite teams," he says. "It's hard to lose."
"I just hope it's a good game," says Tolton.