Charles Dickens and the Red Raiders

I came across the below quote on the recent passing of a football legend, Mike Leach. Controversial at times but always genuine, he left his mark on the game.

“He loved meeting people,” Feldman remembers. “I think being this complete outsider who had never played college football but had navigated an unconventional path into coaching was so validating for him. Leach was the most accessible coach in the history of football. You could give Mike’s cell number to anyone, and if they texted him, they’d probably end up in a rambling yet profound conversation. One day when I was in Lubbock working on the book, I was watching practice and noticed a shorter guy in his 50s standing next to Leach as he ran his offense. I asked a Tech staffer if the guy was a Red Raiders booster. ‘Nah, I think that’s a homeless guy who was standing near the building and Mike brought him out to practice and has been talking to him the whole time.’ That was Leach.”

What’s remarkable is the coach went out of his way to be forthright, honest, and, most of all, a good person. After his death, an immense number of people described his generosity. And few folks knew he was sick. What would they have done if they had that knowledge? The man never asked anything in return for his acts. Not once.

As we are in the Christmas season, I rewatched Scrooged, a take on a Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. There are many outstanding holiday movies (Elf, Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street), but I’ve always had a tradition of watching It’s a Wonderful Life. Capra’s masterpiece is one of the best; I don’t care what others may tout. In the end, nobody is lost if they indeed have friends. For our culture, this should resonate now more than ever. But Scrooged is a different type of tale. This retention tells the story of a lost network executive who can still turn his life around. Like Shakespeare, Dickens used themes that still stand the test of time. It’s not too late to be a good person.

A bothersome scene.

There is a bothersome scene in the movie where Bill Murray’s character fires one of his leads because he stands up to him about an advertisement that might scare people. The man is kicked to the curb for sport in less than five minutes. I remember being in the theatre when this dropped; the audience roared in laughter. In these times, the scene has taken on a new meaning. And I felt sorry for those who think they can let folks go at a whim, stiff them in some fashion and devalue their accomplishments for odd legal reasons. I’ve seen boasts on LinkedIn or second-hand talk where people make jokes. Bill’s character won’t be redeemed to many at the end of the movie. And that is one’s choice and viewpoint.

But, for me, the character’s transformation is a start.

To paraphrase, No, it’s not too late, even if Christmas Eve has passed. One can have that feeling any time of the year.

In the end, life is a long game, and what we do often reverberates into eternity. Being a good soul should be the standard, not the exception. Culture is more about what you allow than what you incent. Compensation plans are challenging to develop. Salary. Stock. Bonus. Quota system. There is often too much talk about these measures and time spent. But, if you work with toxic folks or keep their company, it’s best to move on. Of course, there is always a certain amount of in-between. Be the change you want to see in your company and beyond.

Life has a way of teaching that lesson these days. Your choices can stick with you. The bad ones find you. Thanks for the reminder, Mike. I doubt three ghosts ever visited you at Texas Tech or Mississippi State. But if spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future came, they did a heck of a job.

Notes:


  • The Mike Leach quote is attributed to the Dispatch, grant it might have come from the Atlantic. Hopefully, I’ll find the specific reference.
  • And almost every football team honored him today on New Year’s Day.
  • Old’ Mizzou has a 6-3 record against Mike Leach-led teams. Go Tigers.
  • Christmas picture was taken at the Country Music Hall of Fame four years ago.