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Fan or fanatic? Depends on the price

DENVER — Being a fan sure takes a lot more dedication than it used to.

Watch games, know every player and cheer on your team? Please. Buy a few pennants, a T-shirt and a cap? Are you kidding?

Today's fans aren't stopping with mere trinkets. They're willing to go to extraordinary lengths to prove their fanaticism.

In order to get a ticket to Sunday's Denver-Pittsburgh AFC championship game in Denver, one area surgeon is offering a free vasectomy — with pre- and post-operation visits. The surgeon, a Broncos season-ticket holder, told the Fort Collins Coloradoan that he wants to enjoy the game with his two sons. Of course, whichever poor sap takes up Dr. Steven Broman on his offer won't ever get that chance.

Talk about a lose-lose.

Thus far, he's found no takers.

But the surgeon isn't willing to pony up the outrageous charges that scalpers are asking for, reportedly upwards of $2,000 per ticket.

Why buy when you can barter, especially if you're the one doing the snipping?

Broman might be out of luck. Those fortunate enough to have tickets to the game, like longtime Broncos fan Fred Williams, 44, aren't willing to give them up.

"(People) know I wouldn't sell them. They ask me how much I'd take and I tell them I'd probably take 10 grand and then go down to the stadium and buy tickets because I wouldn't have to pay that much down there," Williams said at Friday night's Nuggets-Jazz basketball game.

But he's not surprised at the desperation of some fans to get into the game. His uncle used to mail him tickets to the next game after the Broncos lost. Then later in the week after his uncle had calmed down, Williams' mother would have to mail them back. That's not the worst of his behavior.

"My uncle threw his shoe through the TV once when I was a kid," Williams said.

At least a television is cheaper than a second mortgage. But that didn't stop some overwhelmed Philadelphia Eagles fans from taking out second mortgages to finance trips to the Super Bowl last season.

Does the memory of that loss console them when they pay that monthly bill? Perhaps they could band together and rent out Terrell Owens' estate.

It might take a second mortgage to get a ticket to the NFC championship game in Seattle on Sunday. Tickets are reportedly going for more than $8,000.

Kelly Thompson, 46, thinks that's too much. Of course, the Broncos fan has a ticket to Sunday's game — and he only had to pay $150 for it. His friend, a Steelers fan, paid $1,500 for a pair of tickets to the game. And Thompson said his friend is willing to pay even more for the Super Bowl.

"He didn't even hesitate," Thompson said. "He told me, 'If they go to the Super Bowl, I'm going to be broke.' "

Think that guy is passionate about the Steelers? Well, Terry O'Neill has got him beat. O'Neill, 50, had a heart attack last Sunday, just moments after Jerome Bettis fumbled and gave the Colts one last chance to win the game.

O'Neill made it. And so did his Steelers.

If his ticker — and his team — can make it through Sunday's game, O'Neill will get to watch the Super Bowl. He's decided against going to bars to watch future games, but still plans to tune in at home.

Nathan Mullett won't get the chance to watch or listen to the Super Bowl. Mullett, a disgruntled Browns fan (is there any other kind?), will spend Super Bowl weekend in jail, without a television set or radio, after running onto the field during the Browns' 41-0 loss to the Steelers on Christmas Eve.

For his troubles, Mullett was not only body slammed by Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison (talk about taking one for the team), but the judge ordered that he not attend a Browns game in Cleveland or any other city for five years.

You call that punishment? Being forced to watch the Browns seems like a worse punishment to me.

Either way, this fan stuff is hard work. It used to require a hearty voice and enough money for a few suds.

Now you need blood, sweat, tears, a bail bondsman and a mortgage broker. Oh, and a good deal of faith. And that's before kickoff.

Ryan Soliz, 24, is counting on a miracle. No, he's not wishing for a Hail Mary to win the game for his Broncos, but for a ticket to magically fall into his lap before Sunday.

"I haven't given up hope yet. Somebody will come through for me," Soliz said Friday night. "I have my fingers crossed."

Now maybe if he was willing to trade them.

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