In fact, pick a coach in any American sport, pro or college. I don’t think you could top what we are seeing right now. People were simply drawn to Leach in a way that is clearer now than ever in the reflections that are memorializing his time on this earth. So what was it about him?
I think Jill Savage was on to something pretty deep when she spoke of how unpredictable Leach could be, because when it comes right down to it, we are living in the most predictable of times. The woke scolds who have owned Twitter, our classrooms, and our doctor’s offices of late are nothing if not rigid conformists of the most dangerous sort, demanding cultish allegiance to the hive mind ... or else.
Not Leach. While the man loved tangents about candy, eloping, or Bigfoot, it was largely because his depth of spirit and curiosity – unlike many of today’s men – were seemingly limitless. The "Air Raid" offense that made him household name was not some quirky gimmick contrived by a desperate coach, but a philosophical approach to life that would never confuse mere convention and acceptance with success.
For example, when some apparatchik of a sports reporter tried to corner him on his politics, Leach didn’t feel compelled to check any kind of box other than fealty to his own well-formed conscience.
“Do we really live in a country where you can’t freely support whoever you want?” Leach said of his support for Donald Trump. “I’m certainly not going to hide from my opinion, and I shouldn’t be asked to.”
Amen. Leach’s primary inspirations on the gridiron were actually battlefield gurus like Geronimo and Sun Tzu, the latter specifically quoted by Leach as his muse for moving the ball down the field: "If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared; appear where you are not expected."
Be bold. Live large. Cast fear aside. Seek truth. It’s all in there, and Leach wanted to live it all as loud as possible in a profession he chose after earning a law degree. You probably don’t do that unless the vision for your future is full of adventure, is deeply substantive, and gives zero Fs about what people might think. He summed that up for one of his teams this way after a big win: “Nothing is really, really, really fun unless it’s hard!”
So few of us believe that these days. We constantly settle for the path of least resistance. We constantly equivocate in the face of evil and choose victimology over valor. And it is because we somehow know this is fundamentally who we are at a level beyond everyday word or deed that we are now fawning over a college football coach as if we are haphazardly trying to find religion like Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams.
We are starving for something more, and we are deeply envious of the man who found it. That’s what is really going on here. We see the real deal, and we are jealous as hell. That also, by the way, is what is going on when we look at men like Ron DeSantis and Elon Musk. They won’t settle. They know there is so much more.
In the end, Mike Leach loved life and knew he owed it his very best. If that isn’t you, ask yourself why not. Odds are you have so much more to give than the excuses, nonsense, and cowardice you are now feeding yourself with.
Time for an existential change. Time to do hard things. There’s a whole world out there being wasted by those whom Leach was uniquely trying to prod back to life by thinking beyond the shallowest of expectations.
Just admit it already. Bigfoot has more substance than many of our lifestyles right now. So change your playbook this Christmas. Leach has shown you just how many fun wins are out there for you if you only try.