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Broncos' Misery Gets Top Billing Over Chargers

December 16, 1990|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DENVER — "Entertainment Tonight" will be filming "NFL Live" today as it rolls on Rich Goins, who is living 40 feet in the air on a 40-inch wide billboard overlooking Mile High Stadium.

It is Day 33 for the radio sportscaster who has sworn to camp out until the Broncos win. And the snow is on its way.

"My best shot of getting down is the Chargers," Goins said by cellular telephone. "If they don't beat the Chargers, I figure I'm up here until after the Super Bowl.

"Broncos owner Pat Bowlen sent me over a winter coat--I wonder if he was trying to tell me something. Coach (Dan) Reeves called and asked if there was anything he could get me, and I told him a win."

An enterprising Goins has struck a deal with NBC's Bob Costas to descend from his perch after Super Bowl XXV if the Broncos fail to win down the stretch. The deal calls for Goins to do this on national television. In the meantime, friends have been selling "Save the G-man" T-shirts at $10 a pop for his benefit, and the aid of the homeless.

"Some guy did this in Tampa and he came down after two weeks when no one noticed," Goins said. "This is Denver and Broncomania; I've already sold more than 300 T-shirts."

Goins, who is required to wear a harness while high in the air, sleeps in a small hutch complete with heat and cable TV. He comes down from the billboard for restroom stops in a RV parked nearby. However on one recent stop he returned to find a young lady waiting for him on the billboard.

"She was sitting on my lounge chair with her top pulled down," Goins said. "I had to send her back down, though, nobody is allowed up here. No exceptions."

A local group of female dancers appeared one day, put on a show for him and caused a traffic jam. Brittany York, Playboy's Miss October, also stopped by with an electric razor she claimed Victor Kiam had given her for delivery to Goins.

"I thought I'd have a few yucks, get a little publicity and the Broncos would win," he said. "I thought big-time wrong."

Goins was a part-time employee at a radio station when he began this stunt. Now he has been told he has earned a full-time job. He does the morning sports reports for his radio station from the billboard, and entertains the well-oiled Denver crazies at night with quips using a bullhorn.

The Broncos (3-10) have been doing their part to continue Denver's football reputation for the ridiculous. They have lost four consecutive games since Goins climbed the billboard--six in a row all together, the longest in franchise history since 1967.

"The guy on the billboard has to be a giant distraction to the Broncos," said Ron Lynn, Charger defensive coordinator. "You start to laugh at it in the beginning, but after a number of weeks it has to become a sticking point.

"You add that to all the stuff that's been in the media there the last week about how Dan Reeves has lost control and the defense hasn't gotten enough turnovers, all that's going to help motivate them."

The Chargers (6-7) have had their own woes to contend with this past week. Linebacker Leslie O'Neal was critical of the team's public relations efforts and suggested obliquely that Henry Rolling should be playing in place of Billy Ray Smith.

Nose tackle Joe Phillips is on the team's reserve/non-football injury list and amid a salary dispute with the front office, and on the field Coach Dan Henning tries to field a healthy corp of receivers.

"Let's say we're a draw on the media disruptions," Lynn said. "The way they played against Kansas City last week they had opportunities in the second half to let it go, and they never did.

"They fought like heck. (John) Elway took chances to make things happen. He obviously wasn't concerned about missing the playoffs. We got to feel like they're going to come out and really go after us. They've got a lot of pride as a team that was a Super Bowl participant, and don't think their record will reflect what their effort is going to be like."

The Chargers, who are coming off a bye week, defeated the Broncos, 19-7, on Nov. 11, with Marion Butts rushing 16 times for 114 yards.

"The Chargers are what put me up here in the first place," Goins said. "I got so mad because the Broncos couldn't beat an easy team like the Chargers, and I put my foot in my mouth. In the past you could count on the Chargers being an insta-win for the Broncos. But that game in San Diego, the Broncos were pathetic."

Denver marched down the field on its opening possession and scored on Elway's 22-yard pass to Vance Johnson. Elway appeared to be unaffected by an injured big toe, but the Broncos gained only 132 yards the rest of the day.

"Let me tell you, Elway's competing," Lynn said. "Last week against Kansas City he was playing as well as anytime I have seen him. He made just some great throws and I don't know who else makes them. He played vintage John Elway last week, and they're probably as close to peak strength as they have been all season."

The Chargers counter with Billy Joe Tolliver, a banged-up crew of receivers and Butts.

Butts, who has yet to fumble this season, leads the NFL in rushing with 1,154 yards on 243 carries. He needs 26 additional yards to bypass Earnest Jackson and become the Chargers' single-season rushing leader.

With receivers Anthony Miller favoring a sore leg and Nate Lewis' hand wrapped in a cast, the Charger offense figures to revolve around Butts, and on third down, Ronnie Harmon.

The Charger defense has staged another late-season rally and presently ranks fourth in the league. In the last eight games, the opposition is averaging only 14 points a contest.

"I'm sure the Chargers are playing much better," Goins said. "But it's like college football: You don't want to be team that loses to Columbia. If you're the Chargers, I'm sure you don't want to be the team that lets the guy off the billboard."

Said Charger safety Vencie Glenn: "He isn't going anywhere."

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