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ESPN The Magazine gets “Thunder”struck by Broncos’ mascot

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The cover of the new "1 Day 1 Game'' issue of "ESPN The Magazine"
The cover of the new “One Day, One Game” issue of ESPN The Magazine

ESPN The Magazine’s “One Day, One Game” Issue, which hits newsstands Friday, provides 360-degree coverage of the Nov. 17 showdown between AFC West rivals, the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs. The host Broncos handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season, 27-17.

Included in the issue – and on-line – is a powerful package on Thunder, a white Arabian gelding, known for punctuating Denver touchdowns with jaunts around Sports Authority Field at Mile High. After a Broncos’ 52-20 home rout of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 29, quarterback Peyton Manning said, “Might have to give ol’ Thunder an IV after this one.”

Front Row spoke with ESPN The Magazine’s Rebecca Nordquist, general editor, who coordinated the piece on Thunder.

How did the concept to include Thunder come about?
It started with a conversation about Chiefs safety Eric Berry and his fear of horses. Of course, we wanted the shot of pure horror on Berry’s face as Thunder stared him down in the tunnel. When we realized that wasn’t going to happen, we decided to treat Thunder like an athlete: Visit him at his farm, document his rituals (including a pedicure), and track his every move during the game. As [Magazine senior editor] Ryan Hockensmith said: “My favorite thing is that, in many ways, they treat Thunder just like an athlete. There are pregame preparations, halftime refueling and an entire training staff to get him ready to run.”

How does this experience compare to past assignments?
To me, it doesn’t compare to any other stories I’ve been involved in because this went well beyond Thunder. He’s surrounded by people who love him and work hard to take care of him. Every time the Broncos scored and he sprinted the length of the field, his four-person entourage, including his owners, sprinted alongside the field to meet up with him to ensure a safe (sideline) return. To see that passion, which is also fueled by the love of football, is pretty much why I love what I do.

What else can you share about Thunder that fans won’t find in the Magazine?
When Thunder arrives at the stadium, there’s a big basket of carrots and apples waiting for him. There’s also hay to cover the concrete, a bunch of alfalfa for him to snack on and a bucket of water.

Here are more photos of Thunder in action.

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