Steve WatsonKNOW YOUR 1980s DENVER BRONCOS

This week, #53, Randy Gradishar.

Randy GradisharDrafted in the first round (14th overall) in 1974 by the Broncos, Randy rewarded the team’s high pick by becoming one of the greatest players in franchise history.  Randy became a starting linebacker during his first season with the team and by his second year had made enough of an impact to be named to the Pro Bowl.  By the late 1970s, the Broncos’ defense had become notoriously tough, earning the nickname The Orange Crush.  Randy was one of its most feared defenders, making three straight Pro Bowls from 1977-1979 (he would play in three more in the 1980s, for a total of seven appearances) and earning All Pro honors in 1977 and 1978.  In 1978 he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  Randy continued his stellar play through his the 1983 season, his tenth and final campaign.  He was inducted into the Broncos’ Ring of Fame in 1989.  He’s also considered one of the greatest players in Ohio State University history, but I don’t hold that against him.

He played in Super Bowl XII, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the Dallas Cowboys 27-10. Note that his Orange Crush defense gave up fewer points than any of the 1980s Super Bowl teams did, by a significant margin.  So, they still lost, of course.  Just by less.

So what makes Randy Gradishar so awesome? I grew up in a Denver Broncos household and my parents were wearing Randy Gradishar warmup shirts on Sundays for years.  So his legacy lived on long past his retirement.  He’s a Hall of Fame-caliber player and has made it as far as being a finalist twice, and even to the final ten, but has not garnered the necessary support to get into the Hall.  Randy is undoubtedly shortchanged by a lack of national recognition.  Linebackers are best remembered by reputation.  Tackles were not kept as an official statistic until 2001, though according to unofficial statistics, Randy remains the all-time NFL leader.  But Randy didn’t have the terrifying demeanor of Jack Lambert, to whom his career often merits comparison.  Further, his team didn’t win Super Bowls like Lambert’s Steelers did.

These days Randy is the Director of Corporate Communications for the Phil Long car dealerships in Colorado.  He has donated his energies to numerous charities and has made several visits to troops overseas.  He seems like a nice dude.

I voted for the Hugos!  I’m sure you’ve been dying to know where the all-important bloc of my single vote was going.

Novel: no vote.  I bailed out of even trying to finish all of these candidates on time, as discussed previously.  I ended up reading two of the six novels, instead favoring reading the other categories I knew I could finish.  I’m planning on reading all of them soon-ish.  It’s a pity, too, because discussing the novels was probably the only chance this post had of being interesting to anyone who might reasonably read this other than me.

Novella:

  1. “Palimpsest” by Charles Stross
  2. The God Engines by John Scalzi
  3. The Women of Nell Gwynne’s by Kage Baker
  4. Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow
  5. “Vishnu at the Cat Circus” by Ian McDonald
  6. “Act One” by Nancy Kress

This was sort of an odd category.  I had problems with two of the six candidates as even being nominees for a sci-fi/fantasy award.  I tend to like John Scalzi’s definition.  Can’t find it on his blog but the idea was that it’s science fiction if the story could not take place without the science-fictional-or-fantastical aspect.  If you try to re-work Dune to take place on Earth, you fail because the entire (fictional) landscape is intrinsically part of the story.  On the other hand, Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union earned a Hugo nomination (and, in fact, a win) because it takes place in an alternate reality where part of Alaska is a Jewish state.  But the above definition I don’t feel like it qualified.  No, an Alaskan Jewish state does not exist, but neither does a giant white whale and its vengeful pursuer.  Fiction does not imply science fiction, but if you stretch the definition enough, it does.  Chabon’s story could have materially happened in a lot of other places or times, to my reading.  Similarly, Baker’s and Morrow’s stories were both really only vaguely science fictional, and what there was probably could have been dropped without much change in the story.  They were both terrific stories, but lost some points with me for not being particularly representative of the genre.  The Scalzi and Stross stories both were great candidates.  Absorbingly written, wonderful ideas.  I ultimately went with “Palimpsest” by a narrow margin.  I just liked the premise and execution just a little bit better.

Novellette:

  1. “The Island” by Peter Watts
  2. “It Takes Two” by Nicola Griffith
  3. “Eros, Philia, Agape” by Rachel Swirsky
  4. “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast,” by Eugie Foster
  5. “One of our Bastards is Missing” by Paul Cornell
  6. “Overtime” by Charles Stross

I think this was the toughest overall category.  Really liked all six entries and spent a lot of time debating their merits.  I couldn’t really get over “The Island”, though.  It really blew me away.  Lots of stories have covered the territory of humans swimming through unfathomably long times and distances, but something about Watts’ story captured it in an interesting way that’s really sticking with me.

Short Story:

  1. “Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh
  2. “The Bride of Frankenstein” by Mike Resnick
  3. “Non-Zero Probabilities” by N.K. Jemisin
  4. “Spar” by Kij Johnson
  5. “The Moment” by Lawrence M. Schoen

Related Work: No vote.  A handful of interesting about-the-genre books I didn’t come close to having time to read.

Graphic Story:

  1. Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Written by Neil Gaiman; Pencilled by Andy Kubert; Inked by Scott Williams
  2. Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; Art by Phil Foglio; Colours by Cheyenne Wright
  3. Schlock Mercenary: The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse Written and Illustrated by Howard Tayler
  4. Captain Britain And MI13. Volume 3: Vampire State Written by Paul Cornell; Pencilled by Leonard Kirk with Mike Collins, Adrian Alphona and Ardian Syaf
  5. Fables Vol 12: The Dark Ages Written by Bill Willingham; Pencilled by Mark Buckingham; Art by Peter Gross and Andrew Pepoy, Michael Allred, David Hahn; Colour by Lee Loughridge and Laura Allred; Letters by Todd Klein

I didn’t want to vote for Neil Gaiman or a Batman story…but just couldn’t honestly argue for any of the others above it.  I did read all of these but it’s a hard category to vote for.  Only Gaiman’s story was a one-shot.  All the others are parts of long series that to truly appreciate I’d have to read all the way from the beginning.

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (i.e., movies):

  1. Moon
  2. District 9
  3. Up
  4. Avatar
  5. Star Trek

So I did end up seeing Avatar.  I definitely liked it more than I thought I would, but was mostly right that it wasn’t ultimately the kind of movie I dig.  Star Trek was a fair amount of fun, but mostly loud and stupid, I’m sad to say.  Up probably doesn’t belong here (of course it was good, but not a favorite).  District 9 was affecting, if a little gory for my taste.  Nah, Moon is the easy winner.  Quite good and definitely the kind of movie I want to see so much more of.  They just don’t make these kinds of movies all that much: low budget, emphasis on story and performance.  Make more!  Entertain me!

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: No vote.  I’ve seen a few of the Dr. Who episodes that were up for this, but haven’t seen the other shows and am totally not up to speed on my SF TV watching, so I didn’t think I was qualified to give this category due consideration.  I’m sure plenty of other voters have me covered.

Also no vote: editor (long form), editor (short form), professional artist, semiprozine, fan writer, fanzine, fan artist, Campbell Award (best new writer).  Not qualified to judge any of these to my satisfaction.  I was tempted to vote for Shaun Tan for the artist category despite this fact, because I love some of his books so much.

Steve WatsonKNOW YOUR 1980s DENVER BRONCOS

This week, #76, Ken Lanier.

Ken Lanier doing some shot putting

Ken Lanier wearing some tall socks and putting a shot at FSU

Ken was a critical member of the Broncos’ revolutionary offensive line of the 1980s.  He was drafted in the 5th round of the 1981 draft and spent all but one of his fourteen years with the team.  He generally played right tackle.  Like Keith Bishop (previously featured on KNOW YOUR 1980s DENVER BRONCOS), Ken was lighter and more athletic than the typical offensive lineman of his day.  He fit in with the club’s approach of eschewing oversized players in favor of more athletic lineman.  Year after year the team had one of the lightest lines in the league.  Their more nimble offensive line specialized in zone blocking techniques (very effective for creating running lanes but not without controversy).  His athleticism had helped him become a two-sport star at Florida State, and his 1979 school shot put record still stands*.

He played in Super Bowl XXI, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the New York Giants 39-20, Super Bowl XXII, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the Washington Native Americans 42-10, and Super Bowl XXIV, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the San Francisco 49ers 55-10.Ken Lanier

So what makes Ken Lanier so awesome? Longevity and reliability.  Thirteen years as a Bronco, plus from 1982-1992 he missed only five starts.  This continued a trend he’d begun during his college years, where he was known as the Ironman for starting 46 straight games (every single game of his college career).

After retirement from football, Ken embarked on numerous business ventures in the Denver area.  Unfortunately they have not been as successful as his playing career.  A recent Rocky Mountain News profile detailed his declaration of bankruptcy owing to compounding business debts.  Hopefully Ken (and the rest of the economy) will pull through, like a right tackle plowing over an overmatched defensive end.

*According to the FSU fan site I found the shot put picture at and my copy of the 1982 Broncos’ Yearbook.  So it seems possible his record may have since been bested.

Ken Lanier wearing some tall socks and putting a shot at FSU.

Steve WatsonKNOW YOUR 1980s DENVER BRONCOS

This week, the third in a series of team-leading runners, #26, Bobby Humphrey.

Bobby HumphreyLooking to replace the retiring Tony Dorsett and the aging Sammy Winder, the Broncos selected Bobby in the 1989 Supplemental Draft.  He had two terrific seasons for the Broncos, gaining over 1100 yards both years, making one Pro Bowl, and helping the team reach a Super Bowl.  Denver seemed to have found the star runner they had long sought to complement John Elway, and the future looked bright.  Of course, Bobby knew how important he was to Coach Reeves and the team, so he sadly decided to leverage his value by holding out in an attempt to get a new contract.  Most holdout situations magically resolve around the time that either the brutal training camp schedule ends or the paying schedule of actual games begins.  But Bobby sat out for most of the 1991 season, waiting in vain for the team to accept his demands, while the Broncos stuck to their team policy of not negotiating with holdouts.  Realizing the Broncos were doing well even without him, Bobby relented and returned for the final few games of the season, but did not play a major role for the team.  He was traded to the Miami Dolphins before the following season, where he played only sparingly for a year.

He played in Super Bowl XXIV, in which the Broncos were pummeled by the San Francisco 49ers 55-10.  He did his part to earn those 10 points, though, leading the team in both rushing and receiving yards.

So what makes Bobby Humphrey so awesome?  Well, tough call.  His hair, for one thing.  He was also probably the most talented running back the Broncos had during the 1980s (if one considers only the worn-down Broncos version of Tony Dorsett).  But talent only goes so far.  By contrast, Sammy Winder contributed a great deal more to the team’s successes and should be more fondly remembered.  Bobby’s career derailed before he really had a chance to establish himself.  Bobby was a good player that could have had a major role on a powerful team for years.  Instead, his disastrous decision to hold out before he’d really earned his place  pretty much ruined his football career.  He never regained his stride or the respect of team management.  A 2006 Denver Post article called his decision “the most infamous holdout in Broncos history.”  I guess that’s an accomplishment.  Bobby seemed regretful of his actions in the article, noting that it was a decision he made in youth and inexperience that didn’t pan out well, and that he should have handled himself better during the negotiations.

Since leaving the NFL, Bobby has spent time as an Arena League coach and currently works for a concrete dealer in his home state of Alabama.  His son is a notable football prospect that will attend the University of Arkansas starting this fall.

K and I were talking about a cooking conundrum.  We like cooking, and sometimes we produce something glorious, only it required six pans and three cutting boards and two hours.  On the other hand, some food is not transcendent but does have the advantage of being easy to obtain. Grilled cheese, for example, has a pretty definite ceiling on how good it can really be, but you also know going in that you’ll spend more time eating it than cooking it.  So it’s really not all about how good something is, it’s really all about the ratio between how good it is versus how much work is required.  If two meals are equally tasty, the lesser work option would definitely be the way to go.

[Worth elucidating: deliciousness is variable.  How much I want cake has a clear dependence on how recently I have eaten cake: if I’ve eaten it four days in a row, I wouldn’t go out of my way to get more. If I haven’t had it in three years (but could overcome my crippling depression about not having had cake for three years), I would probably be willing to burn an entire Saturday making it, if that’s what was required.]

Like all awesome things, this can be understood better with a graph.  Here is such a graph, with a few example plotted points:

Work vs. Joy for food

You’ll probably want to make anything that ends up in the white area because it has an acceptable Work::Joy, or Function-Over-Obtainable-Deliciousness, or FOOD, ratio.  You can see that there is a forbidden zone of food where the work required outweighs the deliciousness obtained. This is the area shaded red.

To understand this graph in more detail, let’s first consider the axes.

Work (vertical) axis: The higher up you get vertically, the more work involved.  So, something right at zero would be the easiest possible thing.  I’ll define that as “opening a bag of something.”  The food is already made and edible, you just have to negotiate the container.  (I guess if you want to get technical, ZERO work would not even be as much effort as opening a bag.  It would be someone bringing you the bag, opening it for you, then putting the food directly into your mouth.  But let’s set our baseline just a little above that.)  I suppose there is theoretically no upper limit, as you could always do more work on food.  Instead of baking bread with flour from a bag, I could grind the wheat myself.  I could further plant and harvest the wheat that I would grind.  I could further enroll in a genetic engineering program and create a new strain of wheat to plant, harvest, and grind, etc. But probably a multi-course meal planned and prepared in stages over the course of hours or days is more realistic.

Joy (horizontal) axis: Also knows as The Axis of Deliciousness.  Joy increases as you move rightwards.  Certainly there are foods that create negative Joy (e.g., mayonnaise) but there’s no reason to consider them here.  Something with minimal joy is something eaten merely as sustenance.  The classic example is a rice cake–which does have the benefit of zero work, at least.  The origin could therefore be called the Rice Cake Point.

Now let’s examine each labeled point.

A. This point represents food you would never bother with.  It’s a clear-cut forbidden zone case, requiring a lot of work with little joy, and the worst-possible FOOD.  For me, this is probably something like salmon.

B. Same amount of work as A but much more delicious.  Very highly delicious, in fact, but still so much work that it’s probably not worth all the trouble.  But it’s close to the line, so a debate.  Maybe some sort of lasagna.

C. Close to the line, so something you’d have to think about like B, but still falling into the forbidden zone.  Despite being a lot less work than B, there’s still low joy, and hence, an unacceptable FOOD.  Moderately difficult and moderately tasty, but just not quite worth it.  Notice that if it was either just a little less work or a little tastier it would be worthwhile.  I think most homemade soups end up in this area for me.  I mean, they’re pretty good, but nothing terribly exciting, and usually there’s just a bit too much prep for what I know is coming: you know, soup.

D. Similar to C in that this is something moderately tasty and moderately easy.  But, better FOOD than C, and hence, over the line and worth making.  Lots of things in this area.  Pancakes?  Understanding that pancakes are highly variable, of course.

E. Something quite easy, but with minimal joy.  Acceptable FOOD but probably only because it is easy.  Probably the realm of cereal.

F. Despite the maximization of deliciousness here, this will also take a lot of effort.  Food that reside in this area of the graph are special occasions.  Hence, I will designate this area the Thanksgiving Zone.

G. The most glorious area of the graph. Maximized deliciousness with minimal work.  Best possible FOOD.  I deem this the Barbecue Zone.

Work versus joy for food, with included Thanksgiving and Barbecue zones

Please use this graph to help understand your life (as it relates to food) better.

Your thoughts?