Denver Broncos | News

Mason's Mailbag: Evan Mathis, Max Garcia, and the nature of fandom

As always, you can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form in the right-hand column of the page.

There was contemplation last month when the Broncos visited with Long, but at this point, that appears to have vanished. If you're comparing Jake Long with Evan Mathis, Mathis would represent a more significant upgrade. He's played his best football the last four seasons, is coming off two Pro Bowl appearances and returned to his standing as one of the league's best guards after recovering from a torn medial collateral ligament last year.

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Long has injury concerns and hasn't made it through a full 16-game season since 2010, having missed 16 games since 2011. Mathis also allows the Broncos to continue emphasizing the development of their young players while ensuring that center Matt Paradis is bracketed by recent Pro Bowlers, while left tackle Ty Sambrailo has Mathis next to him.

It was a matter of finding the one player who could provide the biggest immediate boost to the roster, and that proved to be Mathis.

Now with Mathis on the roster what does he bring to the table? What's going to happen with Max Garcia? -- Mauricio Përez

In addition to the attributes mentioned in the previous response, Mathis brings experience in a scheme predicated on zone-blocking principles, has blossomed in his 30s and comes to camp in good shape (he owns his own training center in Scottsdale, Ariz., so this should be no surprise).

As for Garcia, remains squarely in the team's long-term plans. This changes his outlook for the 2015 season, but his career trajectory remains ascendant.

"Max has got a tremendous career ahead of him. We're really excited about Max," Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway said. "This had nothing to do with the way Max was playing. It was just more of we thought we needed a little bit more experience up there."

It is possible that Garcia could be the swing interior backup.

"I think there may come a point," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "Max needs to keep doing what he's doing for right now. We know he's played there. You start to talk about your seven [active offensive linemen] on game day. That could be a topic at some point, but I think we take it one day at a time."

It's unreasonable to expect that right away. You've got to give this unit time to build some cohesion, and give Matt Paradis and Ty Sambrailo the opportunity to learn their crafts and learn how to succeed at this level. There will be bumps. The tight ends and backs will have to help in blitz pickup.

Funny you should mention that ...

They are not for sale, nor will they be in the future. But at some point, one will be given away through the Broncos' social-media accounts, so stay tuned.

If I knew for certain, I could see into the future, in which case I'd forecast the weather or play the stock market.

We've already seen it in how he gave veterans days off during OTAs and training camp. It's possible that there could be some occasional practice rest days given to veterans during the regular season. All of it has a dual benefit of getting your proven players a little more time to recuperate while giving additional repetitions to younger players who need it. This philosophy is part of the reason why the Baltimore Ravens have won at least one playoff game in their last six postseason appearances.

**

My fiancée doesn't get my love for the Broncos -- how I could get so invested on Sundays or with every transaction. How do you explain the unexplainable?**
-- Anthony Allender

You can't explain fandom to someone who doesn't possess it.

There's a different reality involved with being a devoted fan. You're accepting that the experience is a roller coaster. It will not always make you happy; sometimes, it can make you downright angry -- although hopefully not to the point where it results in harm to others. But like a roller coaster, if managed properly, you can step off at the end of the ride none the worse for the wear and move on with the rest of your life.

Even though technology connects us -- in one way of defining "connection," at least -- it tears us apart in others. I'm not just talking about social media, but about the choices we have in our leisure time. So much of it is tailored to a niche audience. Very few endeavors have a way of erasing the lines that divide us: those of race, economic standing, etc. Sports fandom does that. The lines are drawn around who your team is, and nothing more. You go to a game in person or watch at a sports bar, and you high-five someone you've never seen before and may never encounter again, because for that moment, you have that bond.

It's another community. And each team has its own culture, quirks and traditions to embrace. In a way, it becomes a part of you. I'm an Atlanta Braves fan, and I know while that is not the core of my identity, it's part of the tapestry. The same can be said for my connection with the Broncos and the community of fans that surrounds them, even though my role is different than that of fandom.

Love isn't rational in general, but it's particularly irrational toward a team. After all, the emotion is not returned directly. But in a way, it is -- through the connections forged by the shared experiences, both positive and negative.

And the dark times make the successes sweeter. I'm experiencing the first part of that with the Braves this year. The hanging sliders. The mounting deficits. The feeling that no lead is secure. I've only experienced three losing summers in the last 24, so I understand; it's their turn to struggle. But I can look optimistically the future and with fondness at the past, knowing that there were moments when they did something great, and hopeful that those days might happen again.

Look at the heartbreak the Broncos endured for decades -- first in going 13 years without a winning season, and then through their first four Super Bowl losses. Would it be possible for anyone to savor a title more than the players and supporters of the 1997 Broncos? (I can think of teams and fans who would enjoy it as much, but not necessarily more.)

Fans of any team can relate to each other, as well. The experiences aren't exactly the same, but the emotion is. A Bucs fan can understand what a Broncos or Vikings fan feels, on some level. It goes across sports, as well.

And if a team isn't in your heart and soul, the emotion not something you can adequately understand. It can elicit condescending questions from others who might ask "What's the point?" or "Why waste your time with this?" And if anyone has to ask that question, he or she will never understand your answer.

As long as fandom is channeled properly and doesn't negatively impact the rest of your life, there's nothing wrong with it. Never apologize for passion and love -- even to your fiancée.

And finally, I get some questions that are borderline insane. But this one crosses the border:

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