The Dude’s Mail Revue: Laughter as medicine

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Fat Man blogger TJ “The Dude” Johnson posts The Dude’s Mail Revue on Thursdays, in which he takes your questions about the state of the Denver Broncos. Got a titillating question? Put a dollar bill into the Dude’s G-String and he might answer your question—after bowling practice.

TJ, after the passing of Kenny McKinley, are you still planning on coming out this week with a Mail Revue?  With your sense of humor, it would be good medicine for all Broncos fans to see it.
—George, Lakewood, Colorado

George: I’m glad you sent in your question.  We debated whether to do a Mail Revue this week, but after a few days of consideration, we decided in favor of it, figuring that Broncos fans would enjoy some humor during a tough week.  So I’m giving it my best.  Here goes. 

Kenny McKinley’s passing was exceedingly tragic, made even more so by a few facts that are coming out now.  One was the revelation that McKinley was depressed about what his life might look life without football.  On a personal level, this saddens me deeply.  Many readers of this weekly column don’t know that The Dude was once an athlete as well.  And when one spends all of their youth,  junior high, high school, and college years playing sports (practicing, lifting, studying), one often tends to define oneself simply as an athlete—right or wrong.  One’s entire worldview and mindset is shaped around this identity.  And if, for whatever reason—through injury, retirement, or just deciding to walk away—this identity is suddenly lost, it can have devastating effects, no matter the age.  In my case, it created internal demons that were some of the hardest things to face in my life.  In public, of course, you would never admit to these demons.  But you’d be surprised how many hours a person can spend alone staring at wall or off into the distance when they feel their entire identity is gone.  Day after day.  Week after week. 

For some, the move from sports into other walks of life is relatively easy.  But for others, it can take months and months of soul searching and feelings of depression.  For those of us who are lucky, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

McKinley must have reached the point where he only saw darkness after football.  He saw himself as a broken athlete and nothing more.  In an age in which we as fans tend to objectify athletes through box scores, Sunday TV packages, quarterback ratings, and Pro Bowls, one can understand how a young man like McKinley could have had such feelings.

Perhaps then, McKinley can help us remember something now that a return for a touchdown never could.

Football is a game.  Yes, a game of billions of dollars, but still a game nonetheless.  It doesn’t kiss your son or daughter on the cheek.  It doesn’t hug your friends after a long absence.  It doesn’t hold your wife or girlfriend when they are sad.  Football is a game. 

It is played by real people with sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, and like all of us, these people are more than just their day jobs.

Let us all remember that more often.

Mr. Johnson, I’m glad you finally came around on Demaryius Thomas earlier this week.  The kid is as fast as Randy Moss, is as big as Wesley Woodyard, and from what we’ve seen, he’s as nice as he is fast.  Now it’s time for you to do the same with Tim Tebow.  What do you have against the kid?  Woody Paige said he’s gonna be great.  You really want to miss the bus on this one?
—Jerry, Enid, Oklahoma

Jerry:  If you read my bio on the site, you’ll know that, in addition to being raised by wolves and eating spreadsheets,  I don’t take a position on Tim Tebow.  Why?  Because it’s a no-win proposition.  It’s way too early to criticize a player that is being developed as a quarterback solution two years from now.  It’s also too soon to lavish a slough of praise on him before he’s even thrown a pass in a regulation game.  To do so is both silly and makes you look like you are one of two things: 1) A University of Florida student or alum; 2) A card-carrying member of the I-Love-Tim-Tebow-And-Think-He’s-Dreamy Club.  And taking a position on Tim Tebow is like weighing in on god, country, and apple pie.  You love you some apple pie, don’t you?  Yeah, I thought so.

Really, at this point, the only thing I would criticize the Broncos on regarding Tebow is simply that they took him in the first place given more pressing needs at other positions.  And they’ve got cap space tied up in a player who may not see the field for two years.  I just think there were more efficient ways to spend Pat Bowlen’s capital resources.  Obviously, the Broncos believe that the upfront money they are investing in Tebow will yield significant impact in the future.  They thought similarly in San Diego about Philip “The Mouth” Rivers and in Green Bay about Aaron Rodgers.   

If Tebow was a stock (I nominate TT as his ticker symbol), we’d say the Broncos paid a premium for Tim Tebow’s future cash flows.  If those cash flows fail to materialize, it will have been a bad pick (although balanced, yes, by jersey sales).  If those cash flows come to fruition, the price will look like a bargain.  The truth is, just like a stock, none of us know with certainty what Tebow will look like after 24 months of work under Coach McDaniels.  Anyone that tells you they do is not being objective.  Or they are working for Al Davis.

So don’t worry.  There will be plenty of time to judge Tim Tebow (and Woody Paige).  But for now, I’d rather judge Kyle Orton after a preseason and two weeks of work.  And I can tell you that Orton’s stock is trending up. 


TJ, I’m soooo glad I found you again over here at Fat Man!  Charlie here!  You remember me, don’t you?  The aerobics instructor and former 2010 tryout for the Denver Broncos cheerleading squad?

I’m so excited you changed the name of this column to Mail Revue.  Honestly, mail sacks are so common these days, they seem hollow.  Hey, I’m back to teaching aerobics, but, to tell you the truth, it’s become a little stale.  So I recently decided to become a certified Tantric Yoga instructor.  What do you think about that?  I’m like totally excited about this new opportunity and tantric experience!  Anyway, tell me the truth.  What do you think about Brian Griese doing color commentary on the radio for Broncos games?  And let me know if you ever want a free lesson!
—Charlie, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Charlie: One thing is for sure, you never disappoint.  First, let me just say that I think it was a complete ripoff when you were cut from the tryout process—pulled hamstring or not (your mistake was the Lady Gaga bumper music, in my humble opinion).  Second, there will always be a place for mail sacks.  You can count on that.  But sometimes a guy (or an aerobics instructor with a sexually ambiguous name) just has to grow and move on to other things.  Just think of the Mail Revue as your mail sack with less clothing. 

Now, let’s get to your question about Brian Griese.  I think he’s doing a great job.  He brings the insight of a former quarterback and combines it with the intelligence of a guy who scored 39 on the Wonderlic (which he did).  Griese breaks down routes, correctly identifies formations, and describes more than the patently obvious, which you rarely find with color analysts.  Griese’s sense of humor fits well with Dave Logan as well. 

During his career in Denver, the big problem with Griese was that he wasn’t John Elway.  And that particular designation has taken out several quarterbacks here.  I think Griese’s greatest moment was his performance against the Raiders on Monday night in the year 2000, in which he led the Broncos to a game-winning score in the last minute of the game, despite playing with a separated shoulder.  It was gutsy.  And it was against the Raiders.  And it made Al Davis cry.  For this game alone, I will always consider Griese a Bronco first, and more than good enough to step into the announcer’s booth. 

For his career, Griese threw for 19,440 yards, had 119 TDs to 99 INTs, and finished with a QB rating of 82.7.  That’s actually a higher rating than Elway’s 79.9, not that I’m starting a debate.  But I think the Broncos should have given Griese more time as the Denver quarterback.  This is the same way I feel about Jake Plummer and Kyle Orton, by the way. 

Oh, and that free tantric yoga lesson?  Sorry, I like to stay limber.  Just not that limber.

TJ, what’s with all the whining from Lions fans?  Everyone is acting like Calvin Johnson’s non-touchdown against the Bears in Week 1 is the crime of the century.  It’s like listening to Howie Long or John Gruden complaining about the tuck rule again.  And again.  And again.  Pipe down already.  The Broncos have had their share of bad calls through the years.  Get over it!
—Marty, Clarkson, Nebraska

Marty: Perhaps Lions fans are simply misplacing some leftover Matt Millen anger.  If you had to endure the torture of the Matt Millen years (also known as the lost years), you’d be flipping out, too.  Millen was bad.  No, worse than bad.  He made Al Davis look like Bill Walsh as a talent evaluator.  I think Ozzie Newsome probably had more hits in the 4th round of any one draft than Millen had in the entirety of his career as a general manager.  In a league of egos, Millen’s was to the moon and back.  And always quick to flare up, Millen was good for a homosexual or ethnic slur when the chips were down.

Every night I say two prayers.  One thanking the world for John Elway.  The other is a prayer of hope for Lions fans.

Speaking of bad calls, however, let me get something off my chest.  The worst hose job the Broncos ever received occurred on October 5th, 2003 against the Kansas City Chiefs when Dante Hall returned a put for 93 yards for a touchdown.  Hall was known as the “Human Joystick,” but on this play, all that existed was human error by the referees.  Fast forward to 1:02 on this clip and watch, without even straining your eyes, as no less than two blocks-in-the-back occur:


Kansas City ended up winning this game 24-23 and finished the year 13-3.  But not without some big-time help from their friends in stripes.  Next time you see a Chiefs fan, do me a favor, and slap them twice—once for each non-called penalty.   

During the Seahawks game, while the crowd noise had settled down, I heard Kyle Orton pointing and screaming at the line of scrimmage, “he’s the Mike.”  What was he doing exactly? For a moment, it reminded me of Peyton Manning.
—Sonny, Fort Lupton, Colorado

Sonny: Would you rather he say, “We must protect this house?” 

It’s a great question, though.  The more Orton screams, the tougher he looks, so I for one, can’t get enough of it.  I wish sometimes he would just step up to the line of scrimmage and scream, in his best Brian Dawkins, “Take it!  Taaaaaaaaaake it!” 

Actually, I heard the same thing and I heard it rather early on in the play clock.  That was a good sign.  It likely meant that Orton had identified the proper protection call and was telling J.D. Walton who to block during the pass (the Mike).  Traditionally, the Mike Linebacker is the Middle Linebacker in a 4-3 defense, but here, Orton was giving the center, along with the running back their coverage protection assignments.  Once Orton identifies the Mike, Walton, as an uncovered lineman, knows which linebacker he’ll be taking during the pass.  And if the running back is paying attention (and they’d better in McDaniels’ shotgun-heavy system), he knows which linebacker he’ll be taking as well.  Usually the running back works from the inside-out, which is why you often see the running back step up in protection. 

Of course, the smart defensive coordinator will have even more fun with floods and delayed blitzes with rushers coming up the middle.  When you see this, often the second rusher is the one who gets the sack and he’s usually coming free.  That’s because the running back went to pass protect to the outside.  Also, when you see a running back and the center step to protect against the same linebacker, there was a mental breakdown somewhere—usually on the running back’s part.  Perhaps that is why the average Wonderlic score for a center is higher than that of a running back. 

Wow, I’ve twice worked a Wonderlic reference into today’s column, without even mentioning Dokken, Quiet Riot, Poison, Ratt, Bang Tango, or Warrant once.  What is the world coming to?

TJ, I have two questions. First, why do you call yourself “The Dude” and refer to yourself in the 3rd-person so often?  Woody Paige doesn’t do this and he’s a professional.  Second, please tell me we are going to beat the Colts this weekend or anytime this decade.  I’m sick and tired of watching Peyton Manning treat our defense like the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 
—Lindsay, Denver, Colorado

Lindsay:  First, you only asked The Dude one question.  Your other “question” to The Dude was actually used in the imperative tense as if you are giving The Dude a command.  Second, The Dude uses this stylistic technique as a comic device to depersonalize and distance The Dude from saying anything too serious in The Dude’s Mail Revue.  Comic geniuses like Terrell Owens have used it with great success for centuries—or at least during the Eagles years.  The Dude doesn’t know why Woody Paige doesn’t do this.  Perhaps The Dude would surmise that Paige simply didn’t think about it first.  Besides, The Dude can only imagine how Broncos fans would react to hearing Woody Paige call himself “The Woody.”   

On to the Colts.  It’s hard to beat Peyton Manning because he’s an NFL nerd and the best quarterback of his generation.  He’s the closest thing we’ve ever seen to having an offensive coordinator standing on the field in real time.  As Josh McDaniels said yesterday, you will never actually beat Indy’s offensive coordinator during the game on any play.  What McDaniels meant is that Peyton Manning will get out of the huddle and scan the defense, and no matter what you have ready or how well you have disguised the deffense, he will call (or switch to) the best play.  So you have to execute flawlessly.

Not only does Manning do a lot of what you see Kyle Orton doing successfully (like calling the protection package), Manning is probably the best QB in the league at reading the free and strong safety to determine coverage, identifying overload blitzes, and audibling to the precise routes that can take advantage of a defensive player’s zone leverage responsibility.

So can the Broncos beat the Colts?  Sure, it’s possible the Broncos could be one of the three or four (five in a bad year) teams that beat the Colts this season.  But the Broncos have beaten the Colts only twice since Manning came into the league, and unfortunately, on one of those occasions, Manning took off virtually the entire game.  Manning has beaten the Broncos when they’ve blitzed him, he’s beaten them when they’ve dropped 9 players into coverage.  He’s beaten them with Elvis Dumervil.  He’s beaten them without Elvis Dumervil.  The Broncos have tried controlling the time of possession.  They’ve tried to match the Colts in a shootout.

Now they find themselves with a 1st-year defensive coordinator and the possibility of facing Manning with two rookie cornerbacks.  And the pass rush of the Broncos hasn’t exactly been destructive.  Even strident Kool-Aid drinkers have to think about putting down their glasses during this game.

There are three things to hope for.  First, Kyle Orton needs to match Manning point-for-point.  If the Colts get a lead of two scores, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis do not have to think about playing the run.  Second, Manning needs to have an average or sub-par game.  Last year this occurred and the Broncos were in the game until the 4th quarter.  Third, special teams need to show up.  Giving Peyton Manning the ball is bad enough.  Giving Peyton Manning the ball with a short field just invites running up the score.

After saying all of this, I still think Denver has a real shot for some of the same reasons.  There are only two game films on Wink Martindale’s defense.  And, although Perrish Cox and Cassius Vaughn are rookies, they are also unpredictable and aren’t going to spend a lot of time thinking about who they are facing on Sunday.

Besides, Manning has to lose to the Broncos eventually, doesn’t he? 


Unrelated Glam-Rock Bit

This Week’s Glam-Rock 80’s Song/Video: Falling In And Out of Love

Artist: Femme Fatale

Why It’s So Bad It’s Good:  Everything about this video is horribly good: big hair, spandex, lace, leather, slides, and a hot lead singer who spanks herself.  Lorraine Lewis, the front woman for this band is still hot, if you were wondering. 

Best Existential Lyric: “Fallin’...fallin….fallin’”

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I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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