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June 19, 2009

The Pres' Palouse Park Bench - The Leaf Blower



Crossing the border from Canada back into the United States, I met a border agent named Steve. Last names are revealed on more formal occasions with these gentlemen. I was with my girlfriend and, after checking our passports, he asked me if I attended Washington State. How did he know? Could've been the Cougar license plates, could've been the Cougar bumper sticker. But it was probably the crimson colored car that did me in. He went on to tell me his daughter had decided to attend WSU and how proud he was of her to attend his alma matter. We chatted for about three minutes and I was on my way. The kindest border agent I ever met.

I can only hope he was the man whom Ryan Leaf handed his passport to on Wednesday. As of Thursday night, Leaf was still not in Texas to turn himself into authorities and Randall County District Attorney James Farren says Leaf isn't violating any deadlines by not turning himself in even though Farren had set today as a deadline. But that's beside the point.

It's gone from bad to worse to nearly shameful at this point. I take it back; it's gone to unabashed embarrassment. What everyone should remember is that Leaf led the Cougars to their first Rose Bowl since the Great Depression. He should be remembered for being one of the most prolific passers in school history at a university known for its quarterback history. He had more natural born talent in his pinky finger than most of us could ever hope for in their lives. By now he should be nearing the end of what many thought would be a legendary NFL career.


The question we should be asking by now is how soon will he be in Canton with his bust next to the likes of Elway, Young, Aikman and Tarkington. Instead, we're left to wonder where it all went wrong and what in the hell happened to Ryan David Leaf.

He couldn't handle the attention of the professional ranks. This much is clear. The limelight of even a medium market team like San Diego was just too much for him compared to tiny Pullman. There is little doubt he had the talent to keep up with the signal caller taken ahead of him, Peyton Manning. He just didn't have the attitude or maturity to handle it all.

He was the poster child for an early burnout. He's at the top of the list in terms of all-time NFL draft flops. His fall from grace is as well documented as any. And the media picked up and latched onto to this story as much as they have because, let's face it: everyone loves a story about another Ryan Leaf failure before any other. At this point it should be laughable that the media even bothers to cover this story. Because, when it comes down to it, we had a hunch all along. All of us knew there was no way the happy marriage between Leaf and West Texas A&M, where he was an assistant football coach and golf coach, could last. It all seemed too good to be true down in Canyon. Leaf was doing too well after years of doing so badly. He was too happy, too quick to get right back on his feet. I was once told if everything is too perfect, if everything seems way too good to be true, then it probably is.

Turns out every instinct I had was right. And what kills me more than anything else was when I first heard he had been charged with the crimes for which he is being sought the first words out of my mouth were "Yeah, and?" And then I began to wish that Leaf had had just a semblance of a career in the pros. Because then he'd be the ex-Charger quarterback, not the ex-Cougar quarterback, the man responsible to leading the school it's greatest football success in seven decades. The Chargers can pack up and move on. Leaf just adds to the already bad reputation Pullman receives for football miscreants. Not only does he add, he piles on.

Leaf's attorney in Texas has said he will try to work out a plea deal where instead of possibly serving over 20 years in prison, Leaf will serve probation. With all my legal expertise, I would assume Leaf will spend about 9,381 years on probation. Although maybe it would be better for Leaf to be in the slammer. At least he wouldn't be out in public with the possibility offending again and just creating more news for himself. Before this, I had let everything go. I can understand the immaturity, the inability to handle the spotlight. Some just aren't cut out for it. But the drugs, the burglary, the fleeing to Canada, it's the final straw.

One day, my son will be wearing his Cougar jersey in front of the television watching another Cougar victory on their way to a ninth consecutive Rose Bowl appearance. He'll look to me and ask who was the great player in school history. I'll tell him it was Jack Thompson. And when he asks me about Ryan Leaf, I'll look and him and say:

"Who's that buddy?"


Who Cares Pick of the Week: Tiger Woods to win the 109th US Open. Granted a lot of people care about this but I think the heavens are going to open up with rain and the tournament might just have to build an arc to evacuate the golfers.


Dunderhead of the Week: Washington guard Venoy Overton. Why? I say why not.




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