In a small room in the lowest level of Sports Authority Field at Mile High, two people sat hunched over silver clickers taken from blue bags, tallying numbers and jotting them down on pads of paper. Nearby, a nattily dressed man in a dark blazer watched them intently, as did a pair of men who trained their cameras on the proceedings.
Above their heads, some 77,000 fans, jammed together under snowy skies, looked on as another drama unfolded – the Nov. 29 nationally televised Sunday Night Football game between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.
The Broncos and their faithful were intent on breaking a streak – the Patriots’ perfect 10-0 record. Below, a small group watching the counting was eager to see a different record fall – the mark for the number of fake moustaches worn at one time in the same location, as determined by the Guinness World Records book.
If the effort was successful, the new record holder would be UCHealth, which had staged the event with the Broncos to raise awareness of men’s health issues. The partners had placed fake orange moustaches into each stadium seat’s cup holder prior to the game and asked fans to don them at the two-minute halftime warning and keep them on for a full five minutes.
Ushers counted up to 50 fans who met the challenge in each of their sections, recorded the count on the silver clickers, and turned them over to staff who placed them in the blue bags and sent them downstairs for the official count.
The fake moustaches weren’t a cheesy disguise, but rather a creative way for UCHealth to join with the Broncos in exposing an important issue: the need for men to pay attention to their health. Chief Marketing Officer Manny Rodriguez noted that UCHealth and the Broncos used the entire month of November to discuss health topics affecting men, including prostate and testicular cancer, heart health, exercise, nutrition, lung cancer screenings, and the importance of annual checkups with a primary care physician.
“We are very proud of our partnership with the Broncos, and this was another way we are using the relationship to help improve lives,” Rodriguez said. Breaking the record “will help create a dialogue around men’s health,” he added. “Hopefully through that dialogue men will be encouraged to get their screenings and physicals in an effort to live a healthier life.”
As the clicker-counting continued and the hopes of breaking the moustache record rose, the fortunes of the Broncos sagged: A flat-screen TV showed the Patriots scoring on a long pass play to take a 21-7 lead midway through the third quarter. There was no gloom in the small room, however, when the two counters – auditors from EKS&H, a Colorado-based certified public accounting firm – declared at 8:50 p.m. that UCHealth had surpassed the previous record of 2,268 simultaneously worn false moustaches, set in Fairfield, Ia., in July 2013.
“It was somewhat less snowy that day,” noted Guinness World Records book adjudicator Philip Robertson, who had looked on throughout the counting process “to make sure the success or failure of the attempt is legitimate.”
Robertson questioned the auditors briefly, then blessed the results. Accompanied by cameras and the small group of onlookers, he then proceeded to a skybox to present a certificate commemorating the new record to Rodriguez and Broncos Vice President of Marketing and Sales Dennis Moore while photos flashed.
“You are now officially amazing,” Robertson said to Rodriguez, noting that only 70 of 161 sections of fans had been tallied at that point. Hours later, a final count set the new record at 6,471.
The signal of success seemingly came right on cue. Just before Robertson’s presentation, the fans outside roared as the Broncos scored a late third-quarter touchdown to cut the Patriots’ lead to 21-14.
“Could you ask the fellas on the field to turn the noise down a bit?” Robertson joked.
A second happy ending
The careful planning for the moustache donning was matched by a game that also seemed to follow a perfect script. The contest itself virtually ensured a large, captive audience despite steady snow and temperatures in the teens. The unbeaten Patriots had more than a smattering of fans, some of whom joined Bronco backers in the stands an hour and a half before kick-off. In Section 519, a divided couple – he draped in a Patriots blanket, she huddled in a Broncos jacket – said they weren’t aware of the moustache challenge, but would put them on when the time came. They didn’t plan to leave their seats, they said.
Nonetheless, the first half, much of it dominated by the Patriots, threatened to send fans by the thousands to the rest rooms and concession stands before the two-minute warning. But right on cue, the Broncos mounted a drive that cut the lead to 14-7. The late comeback kept nearly all the crowd in their seats and within easy reach of their fake lip adornments. Dozens of them were on display in a raucous Section 322 as time expired in the first half. A guest relations usher, wearing his moustache on his chin, like a goatee, said the record was in the bag.
“I got 50 for both of my sections,” he said. “I could have had more.”
The event will also be linked with a game that won’t soon fade from memory. After the two teams played to a 24-24 tie in regulation, the Broncos won it on their first overtime possession on a 48-yard run by halfback CJ Anderson.
Robertson’s “officially amazing” description of the Guinness record seemed appropriate for that ending.
Click here to view a video documenting the record-breaking night.