Woody Paige's suicide-plan column best piece to date about Bronco Kenny McKinley's death

We've often made sport of Denver Post and ESPN vet Woody Paige. But when he's not cobbling together forced riffs and calling them columns, he can be a moving writer. Think of his 2006 piece about his sister's losing battle with cancer -- and today's effort about late Bronco receiver Kenny McKinley, in which he tells of his own suicide plan.

"We Must Learn From McKinley's Death" begins with a quote from a recent Post article, which noted that Colorado often has the nation's highest suicide rate. He then posed the question everyone in these parts is asking: Why would McKinley, a young man with a bright future, take his own life?

"I think I understand why," Paige responds. "I know an older man who eight years ago this month was committed to committing suicide. Me."

What follows is Paige's description of a 2002 arrangement to check into a Napa Valley inn while visiting the Bay Area to cover a Broncos game, polish off an expensive bottle of wine and then swim into the Pacific and drown -- an act that would save his family and friends embarrassment even as it would end his suffering.

Before this scheme could be accomplished, Gil Whiteley, a longtime local broadcaster who's been friends with Paige for ages, intervened and made sure he got the medical help he needed. Turned out Paige was diabetic, an ailment that, when untreated, can cause the kind of depression from which Paige suffered.

From there, Paige talks more generally about suicide before getting personal about McKinley. His prose is appropriately blunt: At one point, he maintains, "Kenny McKinley's symptoms were not understood. He needed help. His life was not saved." But rather than leaving readers on this particular precipice, he encourages them to reach out to organizations such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

His conclusion: "In loving memory of Kenny McKinley, no longer ask 'Why?' -- ask 'What can we do to save thousands of others in Colorado?'"

This is such a strong ending that we're going to give Paige a pass the next time he writes something stupid -- like his November 2009 call for the Broncos to bench Kyle Orton and start Chris Simms. After all, when Paige gets personal, he scores.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts