I have to admit that this post is a bit of introspective psychology. Jay Cutler is a divisive force in the Denver community, and he's found himself at the center of controversy not because of his personality, his ability, or his body of work in the NFL-- he found himself a place in our dialogue because of John Elway, or rather, the qualities that man embodies.
Expectations are a tricky thing-- underpromise, overdeliver my father always taught me-- so is it possible that our greatest gift could also leave a lingering curse on this city? Many have pointed out how bitter we can be in victory, or that we booed our starting quarter back for winning by three touchdowns. Who ever thought our humble metropolis could contract a case of Schadenfreude that would put New York to shame?
So it's taken me two paragraphs to mention Kyle Orton. I think that speaks to the unenviable predicament our neckbearded friend is in. The performance is never flashy, but the results cannot be ignored - 2-0 as a Denver Bronco, 23-12 as an NFL Quarterback. Even if we win a Super Bowl, will Mr. Orton ever be celebrated?
Football is a team game, and likely the most team-oriented game Americans watch. Why then do we have Sports Illustrated Covers, Madden Athletes, and Franchise Players? I think the answer lies in the fantasy life our professional athletes live. We all want to hit home runs, score goals, and apparently, throw 60 yard lasers to the back of the end zone for a game winning score. The dream of winning a championship drips off young athletes' tongues when giving an interview, but do they really want that championship, or do they want to be the reason for that championship? That's what Americans want; a spectacular individual effort that transcends a group dynamic.
The quarterback position is a microcosm of the American Dream. The gifts it takes to be even an average player at the position involve intelligence, athleticism, and confidence. The position receives an undue amount of credit because the decisions made by that individual produce tangible results. Yards, touchdowns, interceptions, and incompletions. A CEO relies on thousands of employees, but his vision is rewarded or derided by Wall Street. The American obsession with power plays directly into the psychology of a franchise quarterback. We need an all-American gunslinger, a leader in battle, and a man worthy of our following. Kyle Orton does not present these qualities superficially, and with the cost of silicon rising in the Hollywood Hills even during a recession, I fear that our fanbase may never accept anything less than an Adonis with a rocket attached to his shoulder. Unfortunately, this may be the legacy we are left with-- think of all the great QBs that have played for one organization that have never been replaced. Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham, Jim Kelly... John Elway?
I've obviously been indoctrinated into the culture of image, and I don't know if I can ever break that mentality. I just wanted to point out that the man at the helm of our offense is experiencing a bevy of criticism because of the reductionist logic present in our society. He's not John Elway, and he's not Jay Cutler. But more importantly, he's not the man Americans see leading an organization, commanding the troops, or closing the client. Abstract thought is the product of free time, and our reptilian brains are too well trained to consider how prejudiced our opinions might really be. We need our Great Man, it's imbued in us as Americans.