Halfway between Denver and Seattle, a Super Bowl divide in Arco

As the town in the middle prepares for the Super Bowl, loyalties are hard to nail down.

NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICEFebruary 2, 2014 

Halfway between Denver and Seattle, as the crow flies, sits Arco, a farming community that is home to about 950 residents, the Pickle’s Place cafe, an airstrip, the Sawtooth Club, some gas stations and not much else.

“We Googled it the other day,” said Debbie Jones, a bartender at the Sawtooth. “We’re in the middle here.” Arco is just over 500 miles from each city.

Jones will wear a new Peyton Manning jersey for a Super Bowl party Sunday at the bar. She expects about 40 people to show up, bringing meatloaf, spicy meatballs, potato salad and more, according to the sign-up sheet. What is less clear is whether the guests will lean more heavily toward the Broncos or the Seahawks.

“You have to pick a side so you can get into it,” Jones said in a telephone interview. “There will be yelling and screaming, I’m sure.”

FREE-FOR-ALL

Jones is hardly the only Idahoan who has been consulting maps and fiddling with a smartphone to chart the Broncos-Seahawks divide. That is mostly because of the scale of the game, but also because this state is in a bit of a football lull.

Idaho State and the University of Idaho have gone a combined 26-92 in the past five seasons. That has left the spotlight to Boise State, which posted BCS bowl victories at the end of the 2006 and 2009 seasons.

But last year, those Broncos seemingly lost every close game in finishing 8-4, lost coach Chris Petersen to the University of Washington, and lost the Hawaii Bowl under an interim coach after their starting quarterback was sent home early for disciplinary reasons.

“It’s a good thing there’s next year,” said Jones, who is also a Boise State fan.

A couple of blocks away is Butte County High School, where Sam Thorngren polled his math students about which team they would cheer for in the Super Bowl.

“It was a free-for-all, but basically, they were split down the middle,” said Thorngren, who also coaches the school’s eight-man football team, which made it to the state title game last season. “I had some mad kids when they found out I was rooting for the Broncos. It pretty much ruined our day of math, or at least the first 15 minutes.”

In Burley, about two hours south of Arco, Ginny Behr is the general manager of a Perkins restaurant. She estimated that her customers and 50 to 60 employees — the restaurant is attached to a hotel —were split almost evenly in allegiance to the Broncos and to the Seahawks.

Was she aware that the drive to either team’s home stadium is just short of 11 hours, giving Burley the bragging rights by land that Arco enjoys by air?

“No, I didn’t know that,” said Behr, who grew up in Illinois and identifies as a Green Bay Packers fan. “But we’re going to market that. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.”

REGIONAL LOYALTIES

Not surprisingly, Idaho begins to skew Seahawks lime green, blue and silver the farther west one drives.

Capz, a store that sells NFL apparel at the Boise Towne Square, ordered 100 hats — 25 Broncos, 75 Seahawks — that arrived Jan. 21. The Denver hats sold out in two days. All but one of the Seattle hats had sold in six.

Travis Hawkes, who owns Capz as well as three local Pro Image Sports stores, said Seahawks gear had been the top seller all season.

Even the Seattle equipment truck had a certain appeal in the Idaho capital. The big rig was en route to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey when it made its first stop, in Boise, commemorating the occasion with an unremarkable photograph on the official Seahawks Twitter feed.

The Statesman ran the post as part of a package that asked, “Seahawks or Broncos?” Among other findings, the newspaper cited 2012 U.S. census data that showed Idaho’s influx of former Washington residents had outpaced the influx of former Colorado residents by nearly 6 to 1.

“We really do think it’s split down the middle,” said sports editor Mike Prater, whose usual top priority, by far, is the Broncos of Boise State.

Jones, at the Sawtooth, figured there was no telling whether her Super Bowl crowd would get behind one team more than the other. It might depend on who is passing through town and who decides to drop in en route to the Big Lost River or Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Jones will have at least one staunch ally in Tisha Kozloff, who was born and raised in Denver and now owns the Shell station down the street.

“I’m crazy into it,” said Kozloff. “But it won’t be a quiet, let’s-watch-the-game crowd.”

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service