My step-father, Charles J. “Chuck” Warner, bought two season tickets to the Broncos in 1960, the first season of the old American Football League. The family shares those tickets to this day; I am a dyed-in-the-wool Broncos Fanatic.
When it comes to more substantive issues, e.g., political, religious and economic beliefs, I take a far more studied approach. And I adapt and change as new and better data are available, and as my thinking advances.
Not so with my Broncos; I am a fan(atic), loud, opinionated, and unchanging in my loyalty. My devotion to the team was an accident of history, and does not need to be earned through performance or results. Now, isn’t how I became a forever Broncos fan exactly the way so many people come by and defend their beliefs in areas that actually matter, like politics, economics and religion?
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
In the early days, the Denver Broncos were a lousy team, with underfunded ownership, shaky management, and an uninspiring roster of players and coaches. They played in a Triple A baseball stadium, home of the Denver Bears. Other teams, notably the Oakland Raiders, beat them like a drum. And I, along with much of Colorado and surrounding states, embraced them with a fervor that would rival that of the fans of a Super Bowl team.
Our loyalty, devotion and enthusiasm was not something that needed to be earned through excellence on the field. Like family, we loved them because, well, the Broncos were family. Had to start a running back for a game as the QB? No problem, Go Broncos! Went 3-11 one year, with no real prospects for a big improvement the next year? No problem, Go Broncos! Sold only 2.5K season tickets for the first year? No problem, Go Broncos!
When Hall of Famer Floyd Little, star running back at Syracuse, was drafted number 6 overall by the Denver Broncos in 1967, he asked, “Denver? Where is Denver?” Then #44 put Denver on the map.
When the Broncos traded with the Colts for John Elway, the number 1 overall pick in 1983, the seeds of a championship team were sown. More seeds were sown when Pat Bowlen bought the team in 1984.
In 1977, Denver went to it’s first Super Bowl; this one against the Cowboys. Craig Morton, the Cowboys hand-me-down QB, led the Broncos against the Dallas team piloted by the legendary Roger Staubach. I sat with a group of fellow Broncos fans watching the game at the Harvest House in Boulder, Colorado. In a game that was not as close as the score, the Broncos lost 27-10. No problem, at least we beat the hated Raiders to get to the Bowl. Go Broncos!
After graduating from Harvard B-School, I went to Silicon Valley for 30 years before returning to Colorado. I paid for the NFL Sunday Ticket all those years so I could get all of the Broncos games. I would fly to Denver with my sons, Billy and Sean, and my friend Robert, to take in games in person. Now that I am back in Colorado, my youngest, Joshua, and I would take in 3-4 games each season. One time, I got to be at Mile High Stadium with two sons and a grandson. Those many games created some of the best times of my life.
This is quite the opposite of how I deal with topics like politics, religion and economics. I am constantly doing deep dives into what I think that I think I think. I completely buy into Socrates when he says, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” And I would add that life and thinking need to be constantly reexamined. Like showers, examination needs to be done repeatedly, or things begin to stink.
And going to the same, friendly sources over and over again does not come close to examining anything. Let’s try an example here. Say you have lost your smartphone. You have looked carefully in all the usual places, but no joy. Does it make any sense to keep looking and relooking in just those places? If you do, are you being at all rational in expecting to find something that was not there the last several times you checked? Of course not, if you want to solve the problem, in this case finding your phone, you look in new places–because that’s where it has to be. The opposite of examination is confirmation bias, “Look, see, I am right. Here is a data point that supports my opinion!”
In exactly the same way as finding our lost phones, we need to look in new places for any real examination to take place. And, as Socrates said, if your life is unexamined, it ain’t worth it. If you like Fox News, spend as much time on CNN and MSNBC. No, not to ridicule, but to learn. If you listen to progressive talk shows, take in enough Rush Limbaugh each week to get where he is coming from. No, this is not recommended in the spirit of split-the-difference compromise. I am recommending this so that we can all challenge ourselves, make our thinking deeper and better. Going to all of the same sources, sources that we know will validate our current thinking is comforting, but nothing more. Here’s another example, if we do the same bicep exercises with the same 10lb weight 5 times a week, we all know that we won’t make that muscle any stronger. The mind is like a muscle; without exercise, it stays the same. Muscles get stronger only when you challenge them. Our minds get stronger only when we challenge them. Opinions and beliefs get stronger and better only when we challenge them.
What are we afraid of? Do we fear that if examined and reexamined, that some of our long held beliefs won’t hold up? That we may have to change our thinking, change some previously deeply-held convictions? Personally, I am more afraid of holding onto untruths, incorrect analyses and shaky conclusions. I do not want to hold onto thinking that needs challenging and changing. I most certainly do not want to do the damage that comes from encouraging others to hold onto stuff that just isn’t true, things that just ain’t so.
And no one can know what is true, what is right, without constant, rigorous challenge and examination.
As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the episodes with comments or questions about this episode or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, @willluden, Facebook, facebook.com/will.luden, and LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/willluden/. And you can subscribe on your favorite device through Apple, Google, or Stitcher.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.
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