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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Star Trek and "John Elway Syndrome"

I grew up in Colorado. I'm a native, not a local. I was born in Denver at the old St. Luke's hospital, and I lived in a town of 5,000 people at 7,000 feet above sea level, nestled in the Sawatch Mountains. Being a native, I have come to be a die-hard fan of the Denver Broncos, a team in the western division of the American Football Conference of the National Football League. When I was a kid, we lived and died by the Broncos, or, more specifically, by John Elway. He was a god. It was a running joke that, although they were the winning-est team in the league during the regular season, they always choked at the end, having dropped three Super Bowls, the worst of which was to the San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XXIV, where Joe Montana led the Niners to a 55-10 stomping. I was 8. I don't even remember watching the game. I just remembered that whenever I'd travel outside the state, or meet someone that wasn't a fan, THAT was the game they held over my head.

Finally, though, in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII, the Broncos, led by John Elway and Terrell Davis, got back to back victories against Green Bay and Atlanta respectively. XXXII was an intense game, where John Elway made his infamous run for the endzone, being thirty-seven years old, and getting hit in mid-air, spinning his old body around 180 degrees... for us in Bronco Country, this was epic. He wanted it. We wanted it with him. We edged by. It was amazing. XXXIII was even more vindicating as the victory, a 34-19 landslide against Atlanta, came against former Broncos coach Dan Reeves, a man who many blamed for the Broncos choking in the post-season.

Then John Elway retired. He retired on top. He held a press conference, saying he just couldn't do it anymore. He teared up. I teared up. I still get misty eyed thinking about it. It was a bittersweet day. The good old days of Bronco football seemed to have retired with him. Since then, the Broncos have been lackluster, going through quarterbacks like a racecar going through tires. We had Bubby Brister, Brian Griese, Jake Plummer, Jay Cutler, and most recently, Kyle Orton and now Tim Tebow. While some of these guys were royally abysmal players, some of them were actually pretty consistent. Jake Plummer, as long as he didn't get flustered, had one of the highest passer ratings in the league and Kyle Orton, while not having many quality people to throw the ball to, still managed a pretty good start his first season with the Broncos, especially when you consider they started a new coach, Josh McDaniels, a very young coach by any standard.

But the variable here is the so-called twelfth man, the Bronco fans. After Elway, we simply couldn't accept a quarterback that wasn't equally spectacular. We had high hopes for everyone in the pre-season, but by the time the middle of the regular season rolled around, every single thing that was wrong with the team was because the new quarterback, whoever he may have been, simply wasn't as good as John Elway. And at the end of the season, we called for their heads, thinking that they never were going to be as good as Elway, and therefor, never going to be good for the Broncos or amount to anything else at all. Period. That's how it was. That's how it is.

Now that I've gone ultra macho and manly with my sports knowledge, I'm going to geek out and say that Star Trek has largely had the same problem.

I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and later Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. I remember once a week, I would rush home and watch DS9's new episodes, especially when their story arc with the Dominion Wars started up in earnest. It was excellent TV. It was brilliant story-telling. The writing and production staff, people like Ron Moore and Ira Stephen Behr were amazing. The acting, especially by Avery Brooks, by Marc Alaimo, Casey Biggs, Armin Shimmerman... I won't bore you, but it was a great, solid, dark, realistic, un-Star Trek show, and that's what made it the best trek series ever.

Then Enterprise came out. Enterprise was a radical departure, a prequel series to the original Star Trek show, set 100 years before Kirk and Spock, and 150 years after present day. We Trekkies felt like this show had amazing potential, but we knew even before it started that it wasn't going to be as good as Next Gen, DS9, the original series, or even Voyager. It ran for four seasons and got cancelled. I've recently had the opportunity to watch more of the later seasons, and, like every other Trek series, was finally getting it's footing. The stories were gelling better. The crew were more personable and more like strong characters than simple dossiers of what they were supposed to be.

Star Trek, it seems, was effected by the same problem as the Denver Broncos... people didn't give change a fair shake. They were so bent on honoring the days of old that they didn't give the new anything more than a passing glance and a ton of judgement. Both have been limping along since their respective "endings", and both have somehow managed to get by, perhaps Star Trek more than the Broncos with the release of the J.J. Abrams movie Star Trek last summer.

We are all fans of our own lives, in a certain point of view. We have things we really enjoy, and we don't like it when those things don't happen. We get especially down when those things end completely, when people die or move away, or when we lose our job, or crash our van and have to sell it off. From that point on, no matter how good our new job may be, how sweet our new van may be, it's never good enough to replace the old one. We have John Elway Syndrome.

For God's sake, John Elway, I'm a blogger, not a doctor. I have no right to actually name what I theorize to be an illness. I simply have a theory about the way things are with some people, myself included. I theorize that we are resistant to change, that we don't like being outside of our comfort zone. I see it in friends and family members, and in serious cases, it leads to serious addictions or

The point is that we can't be resistant to change, no matter how overwhelming it feels. We need to accept it, and not suffer from John Elway Syndrome. We need to accept that things inevitably change, grow, morph into things that are new, exciting, fun, and beautiful if we'd just give them a shot. We need to give things room to come into their own and support to do so.

Maybe it would help if we thought of every new experience like our own, first child. Say you lose your job. Here you have a newborn opportunity for something grand. Your unemployment is your infant, needing constant attention and love and encouragement. Then you find a new job, and your infant has become a toddler. It's starting to become more self sufficient, getting it's footing, as you are in your new job. If you've given that opportunity all of the love and joy and hope that you have, then it will come back to you with a raise or a bonus or words of encouragement from a good friend/manager/co-worker/boss-type person in your life. However, if you let the symptoms of your John Elway Syndrome prevail, you'll be miserable, as this job will never be the same as your old one. You'll be unsatisfied. You'll be sad. You'll feel lost.

We all have points in our lives where we can't see how there are positives in change. We have the choice to accept it and move on, to set the proverbial baggage down and move on uninhibited, or to compare everything to what was, dragging around everything with us like dead weight, just so we can show people what was instead of letting them show us what is.

Don't be resistant to change. Resistance is futile. Embrace it. Shed the curse of Denver Bronco quarterbacks and Star Trek spin-offs. Become the new Star Trek movie. Enjoy life to the fullest at every opportunity. John Elway Syndrome doesn't have to control our lives.

And with that, I wish you well. Live long and prosper. Get to the Super Bowl and win it. Feel free to leave comments!