Aaron Sorkin is one of my favorite writers of all time. I find his style, substance, humor, and prose to be touched by a sense of genius, seriousness, and hilarity that both astounds me and grips me. He wrote that the hardest thing to do when he sat down to write, was to stare at a blank piece of paper or a computer screen and wonder how to start. It takes courage to start, it takes purpose, and it takes will to realize that every single word you put on paper my be the building block of something that totally fails... or the first of something that changes the world.
"Once upon a time."
"Call Me Ishmael."
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
"It was the day my grandmother exploded."
Such is the power of the written language that they can speak to each individual in such a personal way that it is possible for the writer to create a relationship with each of his or her readers. In many ways, it is the beauty of language that we tend to take for granted. In this age of internet and cyberspace communication, the ability to create that relationship has all but been lost in a sea of words and "tweets".
It is so fleeting and so passive that we continually scratch the surface of whatever topic we are discussing like a knife on flint. Eventually a spark is introduced into the mix and everything blows up for a hot second... and then quickly fades away, as there is nothing substantial underneath left to smolder. It's like trying to keep a fire burning with Mark Kiszla articles and no wood.
I often wonder after I read an article that has provided the spark to ignite this fire if the author isn't sitting back at his desk, with a smug smile and a cup of stale coffee and says so self-righteously,
"I have made fire." Tom Hanks would be so proud.
The masses keep their warmth for another few days until the heaping pile of re-hashed storytelling and prose is burnt up, leaving nothing behind but a pile of ash and the rest of us right back where we started. Nothing has been accomplished for all that work. The ratings were sure nice though.
I want to share with you a realization that has hit me over the past three weeks. It's something that I have gone back and forth with, at times too nervous to write about lest I jinx it, or too excited to write about with any sense of constraint.
I think I've finally found that middle ground.
I bring up Aaron Sorkin for a reason. For those of you unfamiliar with this writer he is the man behind the masterpiece TV series The West Wing, the classic A Few Good Men, and the Academy Award Winning Social Network (made even greater by the brilliant musical score written by another gifted artist in Trent Reznor).
Mr. Sorkin is unafraid to take on polarizing subjects and simply cast away the preconceived arguments that fuel opposing arguments by embracing the theory that there is both truth and good men and women on both sides of an argument. There are good, smart, funny, charming, smug, and horrible people in every aspect in all of life. The genius of Sorkin is that he is able to use that knowledge to create a product that speaks to nearly every side of an argument, and by doing so creates a conversation that encourages true debate and deliberation.
True debate. How refreshing would that be in the midst of this Denver Broncos season? How polarizing has our team become? It's exciting in some aspects, awful in others, and by all measures a completely unexpected and inexplicable result of a team playing outside of its mind. This is history in the making. The question becomes if no one can explain it, how can we ever hope to truly debate it. How can we make a real conversation that doesn't degenerate into a ridiculous climax of, "you are a complete idiot!"? How can we write so as to create that relationship with our readers without alienating one side or the other? How do we get to the bottom of this?
So many questions, and therein lies the key, at least in my opinion. We aren't asking the right questions. This is the power of debate, the power of great opposing thinking finding a solution. Eventually, both sides start asking the right questions. I want to get that debate going. I want to start asking the right questions.
I have been fortunate to be a Colorado sports fan over the past 5 years. Maybe even blessed. There are certain streaks in sports that will never be forgotten as long as that sport is played, and every similar streak after that will forever be compared to the first.
I witnessed the '07 Rockies unbelievable run to the World Series. To explain that run with words is silly. You had to be there. You had to have watched Game 162. Fans of any sports team are lucky to get ONE event like that in their lifetime. It's an event that they will share with their kids and grandkids. It's that huge. You can't explain an event like that with statistics. This is crazy to think about, especially when talking about baseball. Common knowledge says that if you can't explain baseball with stats you aren't playing baseball... you're probably playing shuffleboard or parcheesi and just mistook it for baseball. A common mistake in anyone's book no doubt.
But the Rockies run of '07 was beyond stats. It was beyond numbers. Baseball is all numbers. The '07 Rockies were destiny.
The Statistical Flaw
The '11-'12 Denver Broncos are the next iteration of the '07 Rockies. Even that may be an inadequate comparison considering that in America football is king and in Denver football and the Broncos are first and foremost. We are experiencing an Event once again that goes beyond stats. It cannot be explained by numbers and the harder that we try to put this season into an algorithm the more bad data is going to come out the other end. More newspapers for that fire.
It's just not that simple.
Statisticians are asked to explain this season, like they would in baseball, but like a Juggalo in school they are just out of their element. You simply cannot explain numerically what is happening right now because there isn't a tangible, mathematical explanation for this formula. Stats don't answer the right questions. They answer the wrong ones.
When 1+1+1= 1
Let's talk some Broncos football... finally. We are being served a steady stream of Broncos news in such a glut there are simply not enough minutes in a day to absorb it all. In my lifetime, this has never happened to me before. I'm not searching for Broncos news, Broncos news is searching for me and trying to get my attention with the most outrageous headlines imaginable. I can't listen to sports radio fast enough to get a handle on what everyone is thinking. It's simply impossible.
I've done my best, please believe me. Reading, watching, and listening I've tried to do it all and still I've missed almost all of it. Something has become increasingly clear to me though and it has begun to change my appreciation for not only this Broncos team, but sports in general.
Naturally, every analyst breaks our Broncos team into 3 specific and separate phases. The offense, the defense, and the special teams. This is completely normal. Every football team is subject to this breakdown and in most every case over the past decade or two 1+1+1=3 phases. You win two of those phases, you win the game. My stats teacher would be proud as apparently I can add.
We need to throw this thinking out the window with the Denver Broncos. When the Broncos step onto the field, I don't care if we have the ball or if we don't have the ball, there is one team at work right now.
Remember growing up when your pee wee league head coach said that you could accomplish anything if you work as a team; even though you were about to step onto the field against Mustache Mrs. Persnyski's alleged 10 year old kid who could grow a beard that you are still jealous of 20 years later. You knew you were about to get your ass kicked and your coach was still feeding you these made-for-Disney lines.
It's so cliche it's disgusting yet every year I allow myself a day to watch The Mighty Ducks 1-3 to remind myself that there is this nonsense notion that if you put together a bunch of scrubs and give them a washed up coach and a purpose they can do the unthinkable. For an afternoon, I allow myself to believe the Knucklepuck is real.
Ladies and gentlemen, the unbelievable is real. Tebow, the guy who is a living cliche has infused this football team with a winning attitude that is turning a bunch of under-talented yesteryear losers into a tour-de-force of teamwork that is a poison to opposing teams and a wrecking ball to the hopes and dreams of opposing fanbases across the nation.
But the unbelievable is not Tim Tebow. He's the main catalyst, no doubt. He's the vinegar to the Broncos baking soda. The unbelievable is that this team is acting in such a way that they are one single unit winning football games in ways that defy all logic.
Consider this from the most recent Bears game. The general consensus is that everything went the Broncos way. That we were incalculably lucky. This is astonishingly poor and lazy analysis from guys that should know this game better than that. Here are some of the lucky breaks for the Broncos:
- We had a 29 yard gimme field goal blocked
- DT missed a sure touchdown by dropping a near perfectly thrown football.
- The Broncos receivers dropped 4 or 5 first down passes that absolutely destroyed critical drives (remember, if a QB earns his money on third down conversions, a WR earns his money on catching third down passes)
- The Bears scored their only TD after a Devin Hester punt return where the Broncos had him dead to rights and the refs missed an overt chop-block that allowed him to gain the edge.
- The Bears went ahead by two scores when they kicked the longest field goal in franchise history against us.
- The Broncos watched as two of their starting defenders went down with injury.
Despite all of this, the Broncos found a way to win this game. I will be the first to say that what happened in the last 2 minutes of the game was mind boggling. But anyone that plays fantasy football and watches Redzone knows that things like that happen in nearly every game. There are opportunities missed in nearly every single loss in the NFL. The difference between the Broncos and every other team is that they have found a way to rely on each other to exploit those opportunities and turn them into wins. The only way you exploit those mistakes each and every week is if you have a team that believes it can down to the very end and beyond.
Every other NFL team shops in Bed and Bath... the Broncos have found a way to shop in Beyond.
1+1+1=1. Three phases. One team. A truly ridiculous writer would mention that there is one other Trinity where 1+1+1=1... but of course I'd never do that.
The importance of asking the right questions
What we are living through right now is something beyond the realm of "normal". Regardless of what happens down the stretch this season will always be special. Just like the Rockies of '07, the magic wasn't negated by their inability to win even one game in the World Series. The magic was that in the moments of impossibility a team found a way to pull together in every aspect of their game and pull out a win in a situation where the rest of the world had written them off.
I heard on the radio today someone describe luck as preparation meeting opportunity. I love that. We are watching a Broncos team tossing Lady Luck aside and forcing their own will on her sister Destiny. The only way that happens is if somehow a team finds a way to come together in a way not seen in decades. All three become one.
I've had a revelation over the past few weeks. This Broncos team cannot be evaluated in three separate phases. They need to be considered as an entire unit because they are crossing the finish line together. Nobody is left behind with this team. I love that.
We need to start asking the right questions. Does the togetherness of this football team trump the individual skill of teams like the Philadelphia Eagles? Is the NFL a league dominated by skill... or is the fairy tale notion of team over individual skill actually true? When we can start asking the right questions we can start truly understanding what this season is all about.
I don't know the answer to these questions, but I absolutely believe that the Broncos represent the most real example of teamwork vs. skill since a Disney movie. These Denver Broncos have the unique opportunity to write their own first line in a historical season.
We have front row seats to this made for cinema season. Let's enjoy the ride to the end.