I have to admit, when Guru coined the phrase "The Quest " to christen the Bronco's 2008 season, a shiver of anticipation thrilled through me.
In so many words, I had been trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to frame my outlook for the 2008 season. I knew it involved great anticipation (doesn't it always?); I knew it involved the shaking of some all too mortal coil (call it character concerns, bad drafting, whatever.); I knew too that its importance tugged at my very soul, and yet its identity eluded me.
Enter Guru and "The Quest," and it seemed like something had fallen into place. But what?
The Broncos have added 36 new faces to the roster and those guys need to get to know each other a bit. For the MHR, it means time to get serious about covering the team on a day-to-day basis. I have officially termed the 2008 season as "The Quest". It is both direct and to the point, as well as general, enigmatic. I have purposfully left off what "The Quest" is for.
I leave that to you.
What Guru left me with, what he left ALL of us with, was a question: What is the Quest for?
So I answered "Super Bowl" on the poll. Easy enough to do.
I say that, because whenever I am faced with a sweeping generalization, or with an enigmatic idea, I resort to principles. In NFL football, the most explicit symbol of success is to win the SuperBowl, I want the Broncos to be successful, so... the Bronco's should set out to win the SuperBowl. It didn't occur to me to be realistic, or even to think that the SuperBowl wasn't realistic. I simply voted for the what I esteemed to be the loftiest goal in the poll, on the principle that one should always strive for the best.
But even having cast the vote, my decision felt unsettled. Was I wrong? Was I resorting to an 'emotional', baseless vote? I searched the comments looking for clues, and found only more questions. Now, I know that life is full of choices, but I firmly believe that integrating your observations, your experiences and your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e. into principles, is not one of them: it is fundamentally, mortally necessary. If their is choice involved in the process, it is only the choice between principles that are right, or principles that are wrong. And there is only one standard to measure them against: reality.
So I guess you could say that it was time to get real.
I asked myself, If one must strive to be the best, does this mean that in the NFL one must strive to win the SuperBowl? It makes a lot of sense, and the pressure of being any of 31 teams to be considered failures to one degree or another is certainly high drama. But I know that isn't how it works. Injuries are a commonplace devestator of teams and are rarely a moral appraisal of a man, and as much satisfaction can be derived from becoming better as for being the best. Many Broncos fans are happy with divisional wins, whether its against San Diego under the guidance of Rivers, the Chiefs at Arrowhead, or the raiders anytime, anyplace. A lot of us have breathed sighs of relief just because the Broncos seem to be on the right track in free agency and the draft.
Well, I was still confused about what to make of "The Quest", but I knew two pieces of the puzzle were in place: I felt like the Broncos have already made significant strides in becoming better. But I also felt like there was still unfinished business. No, that is not quite right. I felt like there was still a missing "something."
And for the life of me, I couldn't get my mind off of a seemingly arbitrary, almost insignificant concept, which has been haunting me for the last two years and comes up every time I try to get this mess figured out:
There is one very simple, very concrete thing which I want the Broncos to acquire this year. No amount of money will buy it in free agency. No number of bad years will earn a ticket to be first in line for it. A teams worth of coaches and players has to earn it, game by game, drive by drive, play by play.
I want points.
Specifically, I want this team to start scoring TDs in the redzone. This has been the ultimate symptom, and indictment, of the Bronco's struggles as a team. The defense needs to get better field position for the offense, the offense needs to maintain its level of determination, and the special teams needs to help put both sides in a better position to do their job. But this doesn't come cheap.
This is the virtue of productivity. It is a process of taking control of your own destiny, your own existence, and it is a constant process, both in life and on the football field. I don't want to get excited about a game because the team captains have said that the team really had a great practice. They are supposed to have great practices, this shouldn't be news, nor should it be rare or special. Remember, it is a constant process, the end of one game is the begining of the next. Unfortuanately, the only clue we as fans will have that they are exercising productivity through the week, is the results they display on gameday, which are subject to a whole host of contingencies and modifiers, from injuries to blown calls.
The more I think about this missing "something", the more The Quest comes into focus for me. The questions are getting answered and the clues are piling up. The Broncos have inconsistent practices because of a missing "something." The Broncos have lackluster games because of a missing "something." The Broncos have unfinished drives because of a missing "something."
Producing points is only the result of obtaining, of harnessing the power of this elusive "something". It is something to point to, as an indication of success or failure, and it is possible that striving to specifically finish off drives and earn points might somehow lead to a retroactive discovery of what is actually missing, but it could also result in further disappointment and disillusionment if it fails. The Broncos need this "something" and they need it now, before they just aren't Broncos anymore. I know this may seem like a horrible thing to say, that somehow the Broncos could not be the Broncos, but look at some of the disenfranchised fans around the league who are left to wait out the tenures of owners, coaches and players who represent what they despise. Look at their evasions, their contradictions, the falsehoods and pretenses under which their fanhood survives, and you will know that pity is one of the worst feelings one human being can feel for another. The Broncos are not immune to this, but they and their fans are highly resistant, like many fanbases throughout the NFL. But you can't fight what you can't identify, and the erosion of core values that we have seen over the past few years is an erosion that can devestate the greatest monuments with enough time.
It is high time that we pin down this missing "something" and I think that I just might know what it is. To paraphrase Victor Hugo:
"There is a spectacle greater than a football play, and it is the game itself. But there is a spectacle greater even than the game, and it is the interior of a player's soul."
It isn't a magic word. You don't utter it and create something from thin air. It doesn't call or conjure anything except to the imagination, because it is just a word. But as an idea, it is very powerful.
I am not speaking here of the petty vanities of prima donna wider receivers or chronically injured tailbacks. Nor am I speaking of the ponderous boasting of a self absorbed oaf. I am speaking of the quiet, confident recognition that you are your own highest value, and like all values, this recognition is something you must earn. Aristotle called Pride the "crown of all the virtues."
Just as a player must produce values on the field to sustain a drive, so he must acquire the values of character that make drives worth sustaining. Pride is part of an equation involving and presupposing all virtues--it speaks of a code where virtues are worth practicing, values are worth acheiving and that YOU are worthy of both. In a player this will manifest most noticeably as a shudder of contempt and rebellion against any possibility of failure. They will find ways to score, hold an opponent and earn their chances. Even in loss they are filled with the radiant surety that they should have been the winners and that next time they will be. In victory such souls are exalted. In defeat they burn with undeniable passion.
Pride is recognition that of all the achievements open to you, the one that makes all others possible is the formation of your own moral character, that just as you must earn your wealth, you must earn your soul. But it does not operate in the presence of its antithesis: fear and guilt. A player who fears his mistakes will never be able to put forth the immovable presence that stops an opponent in their tracks. A fan that fears his team's failure will never be able to present the indomitable will that carries the team through the exhausting work of the pursuit of greatness. The fear comes from abandoning that which is your only hope, the rational actions that could help the team in any small or large way. The guilt comes from knowing that it was you who made that choice, and no one else.
MHR has given me hope for the fans, and hope for The Quest. There is a delicate balance between the fans and the team, we feed off of them and they feed off of us. That means there is something that we can do. Zappa will be one of the lone bright spots in the darkness of oakland on Monday Night Football, and the Broncos will be sure to notice. Hoosierteacher strips himself bare to give us every piece of knowledge he can. Guru puts more time into creating and maintaining this community than seems humanly possible given the paltry number of hours there are in a day.
What we don't know, we will help to find out, and every discovery at MHR creates more of the most enlightened, fanatical and , hopefully, PROUD sports fans in the NFL.
The Quest has begun, and this time, its not all on the Broncos, and nothing is automatic. This isn't a trip to the grocery store: there is no guarantee that we are going to make it. But pride in this team won't come without pride in ourselves, so lets keep up the great work, stick together and not hold anything back.
Because we are all on the same adventure.