Devil's Advocates and Better Angels

As fans, we all care a great deal about our team. Every time that the Broncos take the field, we put a little of ourselves on the line. The outcomes of their games and seasons color our moods for stretches at a time. Thanks in large part to an extended run of sustained success, the weight of the humble beginnings of our beloved franchise has been lifted and perennially lofty expectations have long since taken flight. Though our recent struggles would represent a vast improvement for a handful of lesser franchises - *cough* Oakland *cough* - it meant the end of Mike Shanahan's highly successful tenure in Dove Valley. Simply put, mediocrity will never be enough for the Denver Broncos and their fans. Nevertheless, we must keep our frustration in check and approach the transition that we are going through without so much resentment or hostility.

Since the hiring of head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders, the fanbase has been constantly and dramatically reminded of this administration's new direction. So, while all change is traumatic, the suddenness and depth of the turnover in Denver has been startling even for the biggest supporters of that process. Though I firmly believe in their leadership, it is not my job nor the aim of this piece to support those who do or convert those who do not. Instead, I simply wish to point out the vast common ground that exists in most of the debates that are borne of that divide, and decry the logical fallacies and cheap tricks that allow them to devolve into hopeless, bitter arguments.  I noticed in the comments on my previous post about our quarterback situation that there was some tension in the discussion and I wanted to get out in front of that.  This is certainly not directed at anyone or any group in particular, but rather to the entire membership in general.  So please, forgive me for foregoing football in this post and join me below the fold for more.

The use of logical fallacies is perhaps my biggest pet peeve. Even clever minds can be tempted to use them from time to time, but their ultimate victims are whatever valid points they may otherwise have had. Too many people act like "veritable pyromaniac[s] in a field of straw men" and then fancy themselves great debaters. Willfully misrepresenting someone's point in order to seemingly refute it does not advance a discussion, but rather usually just sidetracks it. And while you may think that you have averted defeat by doing so, you have really only conceded the point. Some people resort to false dichotomies to obtain the concession of a point. These are easy enough to recognize, because the choices presented represent extremes that rarely apply and eschew the vast majority of more moderate alternatives that are more likely, practical and therefore meaningful. That ploy only serves to obfuscate the truth, divert the debate and nothing more. Others yet seem to think that dissuading someone from discussing an issue further by any means necessary represents victory on some level, but I assure you that it does not. I suppose that this leads me to the more general point that I want to convey: we need to stop approaching discussions as competition.

Instead of looking at our counterparts in a debate as opponents, we should look at them as partners. Instead of defining a "win" as having your claim stand, why not let a "win" be when a civil discussion brings us all that much closer to the truth regardless of who proposed it. We need to realize that we are all in this together. The fact of the matter is, in most of the cases here, none of us know the answers with absolute certainty. We would be prudent to act with the humility that that fact should engender. As I am wont to say: the mark of a truly intelligent person is not being right always, but rather being open to the possibility that we are wrong, and being therefore willing and able to adapt accordingly if necessary. This does not mean that you should not argue with the full courage of your convictions. It does not even entail becoming less passionate or purely objective.  It simply means thinking about why we are here.

We must never forget the basic tenets of worthwhile discussion. The quality of our discourse here at Mile High Report is what sets us apart from other such sites. Disingenuous debate not only hurts MHR and its membership, but it does a great disservice to the legitimate topics caught in the crossfire. I am constantly amazed that a community this big, this diverse and this passionate remains almost exclusively civil.  It's nice to write something like this, not because it is required due to any major difficulties that we may be experiencing, but rather as a gentle reminder of the wonderful tradition that we all aspire to.  So, whether it's the general direction of the franchise, the performance of a unit, a battle at a position or the prospects of a particular player, let us all just agree to continue to do justice to the topic, do right by debate, respect our fellow members and acquit ourselves well. Always remember: we came here because we care about the Broncos, but we stayed because this place is a safe haven for better fans. Thank YOU for helping to make and keep MHR that way.  Cheers, and as always, go Broncos!

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