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Denver Post: Barrel Man of NFL fame hospitalized


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Barrel Man of NFL fame hospitalized


By Marcos Mocine-McQueen, Denver Post Staff Writer

Tim McKernan, the Broncos' devoted Barrel Man, was in critical condition Saturday at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction.

It was not known why McKernan was hospitalized, but he has a history of cardiac problems. A heart attack in 1989 curtailed his activities.

The Barrel Man character has gained McKernan national attention and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for cavorting about stadiums wearing little more than a cowboy hat, orange cowboy boots and an orange barrel. Since 1978, he has whipped up frenetic cheers at hundreds of Broncos games at home and on the road, including the '99 Super Bowl.

McKernan said his alter ego was born of two parents - a rabid enthusiasm that spread through fans during the 1977 season and a bet with his brother.

"1977 was the reason I brought the barrel out," McKernan told The Denver Post in a '98 interview. "I wanted to bring something to the game so I could lead the cheers in my section (he has held a season ticket for decades), and I was going to make a drum that looked like an Orange Crush can.

"My brother in California bet me I wouldn't wear the barrel - and nothing else - to the game. Twenty years later, I'm still wearing it."

McKernan was inducted into a special fan wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the wing opened in 1999. He has even spurred a copycat, Mike McFadden, who donned a barrel to inspire University of Colorado football fans. McFadden credits McKernan as his inspiration.

Despite what McKernan, a longtime mechanic for United Airlines, felt was a lackluster performance by fans in recent years, he has continued to prod them.

"I love the Broncos," McKernan told The Post. "And I'm a firm believer in the kinetic energy one fan can generate in a stadium."

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