These things are called duckies.
When a city boy is going whitewater rafting in the Rocky Mountains he expects to be in a large raft with several other individuals and have minimal influence on the proceedings. Sure he’s happy to drop a well-timed refrain of Pocahontas’ Just Around the River Bend or lightly tap somebody on the ass with his oar. But he really doesn’t want a major role in the maneuvering of the watercraft.
Not in a ducky. A ducky, pictured above, is more an inflatable kayak. I piloted one of these devices, if you’d like to call what I did piloting, down the Roaring Fork Valley. Because I was terrible at this and managed to hit every rock available for contact, I spent much of my journey with the kayaked guide at the rear of the field. (If this were a race I would have been the guy receiving thunderous applause for merely finishing.) The guide, called Ryan because everybody in the Aspen area seemed to be named Ryan, was a die hard Denver Broncos fan. We had time to speak.
The Denver Broncos broke offensive records a year ago. They were the most exciting team in the sport by a significant margin. They won the AFC seemingly uncontested. Then they botched a snap in front of the world’s largest television audience and the happiness kite drifted from the young child’s hand into the cloud-lined sky, never to be seen again. To hear this shaggy marijuana machine in a kayak talk of his beloved team’s 2013 campaign, you’d think they shamed the state of Colorado and all members of the Elway family with a 3-13 record.
They finished second in the NFL. Better than thirty other franchises. Only worse than one. And that’s the harsh reality of the NFL. Only one team, only one city, only one fan base leaves the season firmly satisfied. Nobody derides the club that loses the World Series or Stanley Cup Finals or NBA Finals (unless LeBron James is on that team). They give large trophies to the runners-up at golf and tennis major championships and grand slams. Supporters of the English Premiere League’s second-place side don’t pout in kayaks.
The loneliest loser in all of professional sports is the team failing on Super Bowl Sunday. So how does one set fair expectations for an NFL season?