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Ask Mike Leach

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Occasional wisdom by Texas Tech coach Mike Leach.
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Dear Mike,

What's your favorite Simpsons episode, and what sort of play would you design to represent it? Mine's "And Maggie Makes Three" and it'd clearly be a bubble screen on third and seven that goes for five yards. It'd represent the futility of our day-to-day actions, but also our essential happiness so long as we accept the important things in life despite the obstacles and disappointments. After all, you may never win a Big XII title but every season you'll drop 70 on somebody... and isn't that what counts?

Best,
Soaking Methodically In The Heavenly Ether of Raider Stadium
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That's an excellent question, SMITHERS, though we actually play in Jones AT&T Stadium - Boundless! (not really, it holds 52,702). I've watched The Simpsons with regularity for years. And, you know, some people say it's gone downhill. But I think it's as good as ever. You can't go into a show thinking, "This show has jumped the shark," because once you do that, everything on it just seems stupid. And then you're stupid for watching it. For example, I love The X-Files. It's one of my favorite shows of all time. Did it suck at the end? I don't know, according to who? It used to come on Sunday nights after The Simpsons, and I would stop the coaches' general film sessions to watch new episodes every week during the season. Then, in the offseason, I made it our weekly "bonding time" to get together to watch reruns in between our studies of the kanji in Kabuki theater and the discovery of pre-Nazca construction in the Puntilla region of Peru. At first, the coordinators would get really pissed off about it - the position coaches, you know, they're just goin' with the flow, anyway, they're just on the clock, right? - and they'd be all like, "Scully is a bitch" and "What's with the cigarette guy? I think that's Spike Dykes," and that kind of thing. Mostly that was just to rip on Sonny Dykes, and I support that. You only live once. You should take advantage of all the cruel jokes you can pack in there. Over time, though, I noticed they couldn't keep their attention on the plays they were trying to draw up in the meantime because they were too interested in the show. They thought it was about aliens, but gradually they began to see that it was really about people and their obsessions, the dual nature of obsession and faith as bete noir and salvation, how people make those obsessions their work, their life, how they manage and share that life with people they've come to care about, and how essential those human relationships are to even the totally driven and obsessed. As coaches, we can relate to that. The X-Files helped us develop a sense of our offense as a search for the truth, free of orthodoxy, even amidst persecution and ridicule, and more and more people believe all the time. Sometimes I would look at Sonny and see his face while he was watching and realize that, in a lot of ways, when Sonny was growing up, Spike Dykes was the Cigarette Smoking Man.


Former  Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes visits a Raider practice.
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But you can't live in the past, SMITHERS, it's gone and you can only look ahead and live today like you're going to die any second, and I think that may be what I like best about The Simpsons, and about football. On the field, it doesn't matter what happened yesterday. It doesn't matter if you practiced or took the time to draw up a playbook or whatever, because here it is, now, game time, and you have to perform now. No matter how good you were, or how good everybody thinks you are, you still have to make the play today, or suddenly you're a bum. You ever been a bum, SMITHERS? That would probably be pretty interesting. How would you watch TV? Do stores still put up sets in the windows where people crowd around? Did people ever really do that, or is it a myth, like cow-tipping? I should block out part of my next vacation to become a homeless cow-tipper.

The Simpsons is that way because it's going for what, 30, 35 years, and everybody you ask says it's the greatest show ever but... It still has to perform every week. Nobody laughs because they laughed ten years ago, unless something on the show reminds them of something they saw ten years ago, or references it, in which case it probably is pretty funny and a shrewd job by the writers. Those guys are geniuses.

My favorite episode is "Lisa the Vegetarian," from season seven. Lisa feels left out in her family when she decides against eating meat, and there's a cheesy cameo by Paul and Linda McCartney. I've watched this episode with my staff on several dozen occasions, and it reminds me of a wingback reverse trap that goes for a first down right up the middle only to be called back for a late hit at the end of the play. The defense thinks it's in position but winds up never touching our guy until he's 15 yards downfield, and then somebody goes and does something stupid, trying to show off. In the show, Mr. Burns says he'll donate to a needy orphanage when pigs fly, and when Homer's barbecue goes sailing by his window a second later, what does he say when Smithers asks if he'll be making out the check? "No, I think I'd still prefer not." Because of what, the laws of physics? A lot of big shot defenses act like that about our running game, like we can't run if we want to, we're only good against SMU, and then we hit 'em with a play like this, we score 45 points on a top ten defense in the Holiday Bowl, put up 70 against Nebraska, average 30 points against Texas over five years, and what? Respect? "No, I think I'd still prefer not." Because of what, our defense? A play like that won't make many highlight reels, but it's one of the most satisfying moments in the profession to see your work executed to fruition. And then pointlessly undermined. It's all about angles, deception and timing keeping the defense one step behind, until some egocentric fool decides he wants to be on TV for jackin' another guy up.  A lot of subtle execution adds up to an impressive whole, and then Paul McCartney delivers a backwards recipe for lentil soup over the music at the end (this actually happened after our eighth touchdown against Baylor in 2002 - the Goin' Band From Raiderland is an influential group).

Thanks, SMITHERS, for Reaching Out and Touching Someone!

Tangentially,
Mike Leach

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* - An actual question sent in by an actual reader! Send your troubles, queries and mishaps for Coach Leach to ponder at sundaymorningqb - at - yahoo dot com.