Posted Sat Dec 5th by Josh Temple
The franchise has lost its most recognizable fan; our beloved barrel man has passed away at age 69. Tim McKernan was better known as the Broncos super fan for all of those years, attending since 1967 and originally donning his first barrel in 1977 painted to look like an orange crush bottle. The costume idea came from a brotherly bet.
“He wanted to see me on TV out in California,” McKernan said. “I had painted a barrel to make a drum out of it to look like an Orange Crush can, told him about it and he bet me 10 bucks that I didn’t have the guts to wear nothing but the barrel to a ball game.”
Tim became famous for attending all of those games wearing little other than a Broncos barrel and cowboy hat. He became the team’s iconic unofficial mascot. Sorry huddles, leprechaun, thunder, miles and pom pom yetis. Barrel Man is and always will be our #1 team mascot. You could even say he was the first Bronco into the Pro Football Hall of Fame technically. Elected as one of the league’s super-fans along with The Hogettes, Fireman Ed, and Crazy Ray to name a few of the group.
He was always there in the south stands. He was there to root on the Broncos in their first super bowl victory in San Diego. Due lack of space and not being able to afford the insurance, he would later attempt to auction and would ultimately sell his famous SB XXXII barrel. Containing 49 of the team’s signatures, it fetched 30k, Tim gave a portion of the proceeds to a Gunnison (his hometown) women’s shelter.
“The moment he puts that barrel on he has a swagger,” she said. “He’s very shy. That’s what a lot of people don’t realize about Tim.”
-Becky McKernan (Tim’s wife)
“The more I can get the fans into it,” he said. “The better the team plays.”
-The Barrel Man himself
Tim had to retire from the barrel after the closing of the 2007 season due to the onset of health problems beginning in 2003. He was honored by the organization in a halftime ceremony that brought him to tears. Most anyone who met Tim would say he had a heart of gold. His grandchildren would grow up remembering him in a barrel. You get the sense that’s what he always wanted to be remembered as… Our beloved #1 Denver Broncos fan, our barrel man.
I had the pleasure of meeting The Barrel man as a young fan attending a cold game at the old Mile High Stadium. There he was post-game in the parking lot outside of the south stands next to his RV. He had a stack of self portrait autographing them for fans, myself included. I still have that little picture somewhere. You really couldn’t meet a nicer man that Tim. Rest in peace Mr. Barrel Man. Our thoughts go out to the McKernan family this evening.