Occasional wisdom by Texas Tech coach Mike Leach.
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I am 15 years old and I was hoping you could help me with a problem I'm having with my History teacher. You were livid after your team's loss at Texas Saturday because a crew whose head official lives in Austin overturned two touchdowns by the Raiders in the third quarter Saturday and didn't throw a key flag for roughing the passer. He was obviously biased and you said so. Last week, my teacher picked my friend Roger to go on a trip to Washington, D.C., this Spring instead of me, even though I made higher grades on my last two tests and always raise my hand more in class. He is obviously biased, too (probably because Roger's mom is prettier, which she totally is, but I can't help it). You adamantly condemned the officials at your game Saturday. Is it okay if I publicly condemn my History teacher for picking Roger to go to D.C.?
- Slowly Cultivating Reckless Envy With Every Day
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Thanks for the letter, SCREWED. Now, I don't believe in apologies or regret. There is no past and no future, only the present moment. Live in the now and don't worry about the past because you can't change it. I don't remember any of what I said after the game, out of principle.
But you know, I took a step back after I spoke those words and looked at them with a little perspective, and I made a sincere effort to put myself in the officials' shoes. Now, anybody that knows me knows I don't necessarily like to "play by the rules." I mean, I'm already arbitrarily confined to eleven men and four downs and sixty minutes, according to who? Some book written by some committee from the Ivy League to save the sport from the bloodthirsty ruffians a hundred years ago? As a friend to bloodthirsty ruffians and occasionally one my own self, I would resent living my life and making decisions based on some book. Suspend me, fine me, throw a flag on me, who gives a damn? I'm still gonna be coaching. If they say, "You're going to get fifteen yards for this," well, you're going to be dead in a hundred years anyway. That's too strong, too much. Live dangerously. Me personally, I would go opposite of that: think you're going to get away with it. Don't be a coward. Go out there, have a good time, hold a little, maybe slip an ineligible man downfield, expect to succeed doing what you're doing. And if you run into the bad stuff, don't let that ruin your day. You get a penalty, worst thing that happens is you have to complete another pass. Big deal. It's worth trying, trust me. I forgot that Saturday.
But these refs, they're like bureaucrats; they have no choice. Their existence is based on the book, they have to live by the book every day, and if they get away from that, they may not be back next week. They get reviewed, heckled, people come after them because they're supposed to be "accountable" (note: being "accountable" is always for the dogs, SCREWED. Never be accountable to anyone or anything but yourself and your goals). So when they find a way to inject a little personal flair into their job, get out of the box, a little off the beaten path, well, you have to respect inventiveness. Take another Big 12 game Saturday, for example, when Colorado players had to be restrained from attacking some particularly creative Big 12 refs at the end of their 31-28 loss at Iowa State:
The delay-of-game penalty moved the ball back 5 yards, making Eberhart's second attempt a 55-yard blast. He made it, too, with the wind at his back, but officials waved it off after a brief conference during which they concluded the ball was not snapped on time after it was ruled ready for play and the clock started.
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Now, how many times in your life will you get the opportunity to make the game-tying kick from 50 yards out, much less the opportunity to make it twice in a row, and neither of them count? This is an amazing achievement in officiating, a really groundbreaking bending of interpretation to usurp performance, and now that I've calmed down a little, I see the virtue in that. Not everyone could have found the logic or the audacity to take even one kick away, much less two, or to make that logic stick. It's like a little subversive masterpiece.
You can paint your canvas in ways, SCREWED - sometimes you take away, and sometimes you add to create the effect you're looking. Up in Dallas, the officials looked at the picture at the end of the SMU-Rice game and decided it could use just one more little second:
Bennett said Rice's Justin Hill hadn't gone down with one second left, as officials ruled.
"The clock ran out; you watch," Bennett said. "The guy kept running. The play went longer than they thought. They thought the kid was going to go down. That's my opinion. It doesn't matter. The final score was Rice 43, SMU 42."
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I realized after reading Coach Bennett's words that he is truly wise (that's probably why the stuffed shirts are getting rid of him): it doesn't matter. Step back for a second. Take a breath. Sure, there might be a lot of money on the line in these games, bowl bids and all that, a lot of physical and emotional investment, but a questionable official decision that directly affects the outcome of a game that can determine your livelihood is not the end of the world. It's in the past. You have to take the challenges as part of the peaks and valleys of life and move on. If you get too caught up in the moment, you wind up doing something like this:
Coach Glenn and I are kindred spirits of sorts, but he's down 43-0 in the third quarter. I may have spoken too quickly, but at least I wasn't making vulgar hand signs at Mack Brown for doing his job, which is to do everything in his power to humiliate my team. I've kicked up to six onside kicks in games with nine and ten-touchdown leads, just because we hadn't gotten to the trick plays yet. Grow up, Joe.
On that note, I'm looking forward to visiting with Coach Bennett after the season at the Rio Caliente Spa and Nature Resort in Primavera, Mexico for daily yoga and water exercise, guided nature hikes, unforgettable sunsets, soaks in hot mineral water, horseback excursions and massage, beauty and anti-aging treatments - it comes highly recommended by Jimmy Johnson. In the meantime, SCREWED, if there's one lesson you can take away from this experience, it's this: try to find the art in everything you do, put yourself in other people's shoes, and remember that people in authority are people, too. They will burn in the reeking sulfur pits of hell for eternity, sure, but that's not for you or I to judge.
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Do you have a question for Coach Leach? Write him at sundaymorningqb at yahoo dot com.