November 22, 2007

A lot to be thankful for in Raiderland

It may sound trite, but in the stress and strain of daily life it is all too easy to become obsessed with one's problems and to lose sight of the manifold blessings that are bestowed upon us daily. Pausing to recognize those benisons is, I suspect, what Thanksgiving is all about. And those of us who dwell in Raiderland, and even the expat Red Raiders, are blessed many times over. Without further adieu, here are a few things this particular Red Raider is grateful for, and I suspect many of you are grateful for them too.

Mike Leach, the Man: There remain Tech football fans who are dissatisfied with Mike Leach's performance as head football coach. But those who dislike Leach as a man show their heads mighty rarely. And for good reason: Leach is about as likeable and interesting a football coach as you'll ever encounter.

Despite his fame and fortune, Leach is still not too big in his own mind to say hahdee to strangers and humble folk. Nor is he a bland coaching robot who spits out monotonal coach-speak in response to questions. Ask Leach a seemingly straightforward football question and you're liable to get a disquisition on the evils of mathematics or explication of legal terminology. Leach is a quirky and entertaining polymath, and that makes life for Tech fans all the more interesting.

Mike Leach, the Coach: No, Mike Leach has not won a Big 12 championship. Heck, he hasn't even won the Big 12 South. And I suppose those who consider the absence of championships to be intolerable have got a point of sorts. Clearly, the championships must be won before too long.

That said, Red Raider fans could do a whole lot worse. Before the Oklahoma victory, may of us were feeling pretty sorry for ourselves contemplating losses to Oklahoma State and Colorado, and a date in the Prudential Term Life Insurance Bowl or some such soporific expedition.

But even if the Red Raiders had not shocked the college football world with a first-class whupping of the Sooners, we'd all have it pretty good. We could be Baylor; we could be Nebraska; we could be-heaven forbid-Notre Dame.

Bottom line: Leach wins a lot more than he loses, and because of that, we-those who recall the Jerry Moore years excepted--don't have a clue as to what it's like to really be on skid row. What we experience is the ennui borne of consistent success. And that is not true misery.

Mike Crabtree: One hesitates to elevate a freshman wide receiver to the status of a name uttered in prayer while gathered around the Thanksgiving bird, but if any such receiver is worthy, it is Michael Crabtree.

He is a very special football player, and someday many of us will be telling our grandsons about those magical two seasons when he burst onto the national football stage with the Texas Tech Red Raiders. By that time he could be on the short list for enshrinement in Canton.

Now that may seem premature, even rash on my part, but Crabtree's overawing talent is simply inescapable. No freshman in college football history has had a season that can touch what Crabtree has done in 2007. He has torched the likes of Northwest Louisiana and he has torched the likes of Oklahoma. His hands are superb and once he gets the ball in those hands he is mighty bad news for defensive backs and linebackers tasked with trying to tackle him. Moreover, he is a tremendously conditioned athlete who gets stronger as the game wears on and defenses wear down.

As Crabtree's hands improve and he becomes a better blocker, he will become an even deadlier weapon. And he will be enlisted in the pantheon of Red Raider greats that is currently confined to the personages known as Holub, Anderson, Rivera, Thomas and Welker.

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