January 2006

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The contemporary writer I most admire is Ted Conover. He grew up in Denver (and like me, attended Denver Public Schools K-12), but that’s not the only reason I like him. It’s not even that I particularly like his writing style. What I like is his modus operandi. For his first book, Rolling Nowhere (1983), he rode America’s rails with the hoboes. This led him to his second book, Coyotes (1987). For Coyotes, he immersed himself in the lives of illegal immigrants (many of whom he met while traveling with hoboes). He went to their home villages in Mexico and was smuggled with them into the United States. For his third book, Whiteout (1991), he lived in Aspen for a year or so and worked as a tax driver among other odd jobs. Whiteout was about life in a resort mountain town. His crowning achievement, to my mind, is his fourth book, Newjack (2000), which documents the year he spent as a correctional officer in Sing-Sing. Conover doesn’t just interview a bunch of people and write a book. He lives a different life for a while and writes about it.

Mark Bowden is another writer I liike. It might be more accurate to say I envy him. He’s written some books I would have enjoyed writing: Black Hawk Down (1999); Killing Pablo (2001); and this book on the Iranian Hostage Crisis that is so much like a book I’ve had on my mind for a long time. By the way, his Iranian Hostage Crisis book is now due to come out in April.

We’ve heard a lot about The Rule of Law lately as we try to build a democracy in Iraq. In fact, we’re always hearing a lot about The Rule of Law. The Rule of Law is the backbone of Western Civilization.

The Rule of Law runs (supposedly) on the engine of Reason. More broadly, we like to think Reason forms the foundation of our lives. But it doesn’t. Emotion forms the foundation of our lives. Humans make most (all?) of their decisions based on emotion. If we have to, we then rationalize those decisions.

One of the main lessons I took out of law school is that few people — especially lawyers — seem to appreciate the way Emotion influences the law. Law attempts to remove Emotion from the decision-making process. From one end of the legal system to the other, I believe it utterly fails to do so. Emotion is a bucking bronco and The Rule of Law is the cowboy trying to hold on for a handful of seconds — and during that handful of seconds, hopefully something resembling justice has occurred.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little with the rodeo metaphor. I’ll have more to say about the Rule of Law in the future but since I try to keep these entries from getting too long, I’ll end today’s here.

Perhaps it was the Olympian mead juicing my veins, but as I drank in the Broncos victory over the Patriots at the new Mile High Stadium it occurred to me that Jake Plummer and I have something in common.

I thought back to right after Jake threw his one interception of the game. The fear that went through every Bronco fan’s head (including mine) was, “Uh-oh. Is Jake the Mistake back?” And for just a second, from his pained expression on the sideline, I could see it go through Jake’s head too.

I thought about what a crushing weight it must be for him — every day — to know in the back of his head that so many people think he’s a lousy QB, that he’s no John Elway and no Tom Brady. He is fully aware of the conventional wisdom concerning him, which is that he cannot be trusted to throw the ball too much during the game. No, Jake’s job is to support the running game, “manage the game” and not make mistakes. The underlying assumption is that if he does have to throw the ball very much he will make mistakes, terrible ones.

Talk about negative energy! Well, that negative force always pushing at Jake’s psyche is a little like the negative force that’s always pushing on the psyche of a person with a chronic or terminal illness. When you’re sick it’s easy to get down, get depressed, give up. But giving up is not an option. It’s the same for Jake Plummer. Yielding to the negativity isn’t an option. You have to keep playing hard, do your best and ignore the naysayers.

You just keep fighting. And sometimes you win.

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