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An Important Pirate-Related Message

When a season goes south as precipitously as ours has, motivation can become a complicated challenge for the coaching staff. They've no doubt pushed a lot of buttons, probably in some cases without having any idea what the button does.

Tom O'Brien has for a month been telling his team that it isn't very good. This has not helped them play less not good. But if the reality of their true talent level didn't hit home for the players after the UCF game, it certainly has by now. They've been broken down, and so now the coaches work to build them back up.

As we approach a potentially soul-crushing game against East Carolina, to whom might we turn for thematically appropriate words of encouragement?

To Mike Leach, of course.

"Your body is your sword. Swing your sword."

Each off-season, Leach picks something he is curious about and learns as much as he can about it: Geronimo, Daniel Boone, whales, chimpanzees, grizzly bears, Jackson Pollock. The list goes on, and if you can find the common thread, you are a step ahead of his football players. One year, he studied pirates. When he learned that a pirate ship was a functional democracy; that pirates disciplined themselves; that, loathed by others, they nevertheless found ways to work together, the pirate ship became a metaphor for his football team. Last year, after a loss to Texas A.&M. in overtime, Leach hauled the team into the conference room on Sunday morning and delivered a three-hour lecture on the history of pirates. Leach read from his favorite pirate history, "Under the Black Flag," by David Cordingly (the passages about homosexuality on pirate ships had been crossed out). The analogy to football held up for a few minutes, but after a bit, it was clear that Coach Leach was just . . . talking about pirates. The quarterback Cody Hodges says of his coach: "You learn not to ask questions. If you ask questions, it just goes on longer."

Hodges knows - the players all do - that their coach is a walking parenthesis, without a companion to bracket his stray thoughts. They suspect, but aren't certain, that his wide-ranging curiosity benefits their offense. Of all the things motivating Texas Tech to beat Texas A.&M. this night, however, the keenest may have been the desire to avoid another lecture about pirates. Even now, their beloved coach had his left arm in the air, wielding his imaginary sword.


Swing your sword, fellas. You might even hit one of the bad guys.