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Ryan Leaf: The "Before" Years
on December 6, 2013
I went into this book with the conscious decision to not think about Leaf's NFL experience, on or off the field. This is about his years at WSU, and I decided to take that at face value and dismiss everything that came after, both personally and professionally. He tells the story of his experiences on and off the field about his life as a very successful QB of a freakishly successful football team who led his team all the way to the Rose Bowl. He relates the highlights of each game with great fondness and excitement, making me feel emotionally part of the story. He's still pumped all these years later about those victories and that elation really comes through; he remembers wonderful details that make each game exciting without getting bogged down in technical details. He praises all of his teammates for their contributions and acknowledges that it was a team effort. I put off reading the chapter about his Rose Bowl because I already knew WSU had lost and I found myself wishing for a "Time Turner" so they could win it!
But then he decided to share some of his less-than-noble personal moments, and so in spite of my good intentions to maintain an objective point of view in the story I couldn't help but develop an opinion about him personally. He claims that much of his poor behavior was as a result of trying to conceal a timid, insecure person with poor social skills. I can't be certain whether he came to that conclusion himself or if a counselor suggested that to him. Either way, he appears to hope that this absolves him of at least a little bit of responsibility for his attitude and actions. 'Ah-ha,' we're supposed to think, 'False bravado. Trying to look confident instead of emotionally weak in front of intimidating teammates.' Eh, not so much. We don't excuse murderers from murder because they had bad childhoods, but then again, that particular comparison is too extreme. That said, it's just hard to overlook THAT much unpleasant behavior and immaturity and write it off as a little bit of secret performance anxiety. He has clearly been raised in a loving, supportive home, and he'd had too much personal and athletic success throughout most of his adolescence to suffer that much self-doubt. OTOH, he is apologetic about it, and the way he writes this, it makes it a little easier to forgive him... If only he had learned some of those very important lessons THEN.
I know where he is as of this writing and what he did to end up there has to do ONLY with the crimes he committed and NOT because he happens to have an abrasive personality. It still seems that he has to be told after the fact when his behavior has been less-than-stellar. He acknowledges that his past behavior is unacceptable, but he seems unable to recognize those crucial moments ahead of time and stop that behavior or those actions before he acts on them. He has read a very sincere apology in court (it's on youtube) for his behavior and I'm sure he's genuinely regretful, but I just don't know whether he truly understands his guilt or if he's been told that it would be better for him if he appeared sorry. Then again, the crimes he committed were solely because of addiction. Drug addicts by their very nature lose sight of the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. He didn't commit a violent crime to feed his addiction, which is reason feel relief. But most of this doesn't really matter. At this point it's all up to him, regardless of what I think. I do, however, maintain hope that he will eventually overcome that part of his personality.