Speaking of Sports: It's show time for the "Pirate of the Palouse"
Picture a more manly (without the mascara and the effeminate affectation) Captain Jack Sparrow drawing up passing plays on the deck of the Good Ship Coug It. Scurvy Husky Dogs! Air Raid Offense indeed. Stretch the field, sideline to sideline…is that Black Beard or Henry Morgan?Okay, nothing really makes sense anymore, but Washington State University football is about to ratchet up the Excitement Meter and the pirate references about 10-fold after WSU athletic director Bill Moos, one of the architect’s of the University of Oregon’s emergence and resurgence as a D-1 football power, pulled a damned big crimson and gray rabbit out of his cougar ball cap by hiring the swashbuckling Mike Leach to coach what has been a moribund football program steeped in indifference and bad jokes for nearly a decade worth of mostly crummy football.Sacked WSU coach Paul Wulff, who to his credit, has stocked the shelves quite nicely for Leach, walks the gangplank of angst and donor indifference and Moos gets the only head coach he ever wanted. Yes, a Wulff in sheep’s clothing and a sacrificial lamb for Bull Moos. Deposed coaches tell no tales, matey and we aren’t in Davey Jones’ foot locker anymore. Leach, the new Pirate of the Palouse, brings with him a little litigious baggage from his old coaching haunt at Texas Tech. While his Red Raider teams often led D-1 in passing offense and his teams went bowling every year of his decade-long stay in beautiful Lubbock, Texas, there is the little matter of a couple of outstanding (unless you are Tech or ESPN) lawsuits the Cody, Wyoming native has ongoing back in the Lone Star.After all, Leach does have a law degree and an attitude to go with all that coaching altitude. That makes him dangerous and not particularly enamored with suffering fools or ESPN talking bobbleheads (you dig up the case files on those working suits—we’re talking football here).Welcome to the Palouse, Mr. Leach. No, it just looks like you’re still in Kansas, Captain Toto. I’ve got to believe that if you can live and work in a place like Lubbock, Texas for a decade or so, calling Pullman your personal ZIP Code and passing fancy won’t be a problem. And after all, if you get tired of the wind and all those Harvesters, there’s always your little retreat back in Key West.Hmm. Key West…Pullman…Pullman…Key West. Okay, for $2 million-plus a year, plus, of course, those back-loaded incentives, I could live and work in Pullman too.But Grand Avenue isn’t Duval Street. (Editor’s note: I can hear the hand-wringing now. Like I said, nothing really makes sense anymore when it comes to who makes what, who doesn’t and why? Yes, you could get yourself some pretty good professors for the kind of money WSU is doling out for a football coach. I know. With education funding at all-time low levels and tuition increases sky-rocketing, the WSU brain trust opens up their new Pac-12 television contract Fort Knox for the Cody Pirate. But it’s business and this nation’s skewed perspective when it comes to paying football coaches and CEOs.)Some call Leach’s five-year contract ($11 million over five years) sheer piracy. Okay, I’ll give you that. It is no wonder that the Occupy Wall Street Movement is freezing its ass off this winter, but still alive and pissed off.The only one percent I have a working knowledge of is the milk I drink. You have to spend big to win big. And make no mistake about it, Leach will win big in, yes, Pullman, where the hapless Cougs have gone 9-40 over the past four seasons and haven’t been to anything but the porcelain bowls in Bohler for eight years.One of the greatest offensive innovators in football (move over, Chip Kelly) is up to the challenge of finding a good restaurant in Pullman and creating an offense that will put butts in about to be renovated Martin Stadium and wins on the resume.The iconic, quotable, bookish Leach (all those pirate novels alone make me believe he’s no proponent of the Cliff’s Notes school of well read) will produce high-scoring offenses and 5,000 yard passers. No, he probably won’t win a national championship or turn Washington State into a perennial BCS darling. After all, Pullman isn’t Eugene.Sure, Fill The Breach Leach could be the most interesting football coach in the world. But he will win, ratchet up the number of butts in the seats and graduate players, even though this isn’t Texas, where high school football is king and recruits are as thick as a Texas drawl. While I’ll always be an Oregon fan and a Quacker Backer, I’m excited about what Leach brings to the turf at Martin Stadium. It’s been a long while since I’ve tailgated in the Beasley parking lot and cut some Cougar cheese. I’m all over perspective, common sense and the realization that I’m not enough of a Coug fan to spend six-plus hours on bad roads to watch bad football.Argg…matey. Maybe now. Maybe now. It’s time to stock up on Pirate gear and grab a bottle or two of that 30-weight hops and grains elixer of 4.5 love—Arrogant Bastard. What the hell and high water? I’ve been seeing double in a single malt world since Labor Day weekend anyway. Maybe a Mike Leach eye patch in shades of Crimson and Gray is in the offing.Make mine a double. I think that’s the Black Pearl I just saw sailing down 195 into Pullman. It’s time to get back to watching a few wild 50-45 shootouts on the Palouse, the new Port Royal of the Pac-12.