My daddy was the second child born into a family of four children with an alcoholic father, and born-again Christian mother. He tested the limits of his mother’s Christian tolerance with youthful pranks, adolescent drinking, card playing and betting. Grandma Leachman responded with the philosophy of spare the rod, spoil the child. In fairness to her, this was probably an attempt to bring some order to her brood of wild boys, wilder husband, and one darling girl. Nonetheless, her philosophy involved such punishments as locking her children in a black closet when they misbehaved. In theory, they would come to Jesus in the dark, and repent their sins.
For the rest of his life my father could not stand to be in a dark room or darkened space. Upon entering a room or house, his first motion was always to switch on the light. If, on a rare occasion, we would come home and find Daddy home alone, he would have a light on in every room of the house. No doubt this upbringing contributed to the fact that none of the Leachman boys were resilient—except Lamar. And his resilience depended on my mother Paula, his wife. But Paula was no angel. She was the fire in the belly of their collective ambition. She was the fire licking at the heels of my dad’s devilishness.
They built a life together on the foundation of competitive football that was both exhilarating and heartbreaking. Football was my family’s salvation and destruction. It supported us. It set the pace of our daily lives. It opened doors for us. It provided us with community. Yet, it was the source of our family’s greatest sorrow.
This is my story of a football life; a life that was totally male centric, completely focused on physical excellence and mental toughness, never routine, always preoccupied with winning, and continually idolized by those outside of the profession. It was a life characterized by its own particular rhythm and seasons, the seasons of football.