Saturday, November 19, 2011

The story of an autumn Leaf that fell and went back to its branch

As your are reading this article, we are right in the middle of autumn here in Canada and the northern part of the United States of America. It's such a beautiful season, even if it's a little chilly. The scenery is spectacular as the season changes green leaves to beautiful shades of red and yellow. The downside is that the leaves eventually all fall and most of the trees become completely naked, which is ironic because freezing winter is coming...

Allow me to tell you the story of a Leaf that not only fell to the ground during autumn, but also fell into a hole that looked like a bottomless pit.

This is the story of a man. His name is Ryan Leaf. Although he was a professional American Football player, this is the story, in a nutshell, of a man and his mistakes. You don't need to know anything about American Football. It's a story about great expectations and greater deceptions. In other words, this could very well be the story of you or me. I never thought that one day I would tell his story, in a positive way. He was always perceived as an individual that did just about everything to be disliked by everyone. Here's another auto-destructive person with loads of talent.

He was what we call a stud. He was both a high school and college American football superstar. He probably got all the girls he wanted. He was the toast of the town. He was The Man as in "You tha man!".

To make a long story short, at the 1998 NFL Draft, the first choice over all was between him and Peyton Manning. The Indianapolis Colts had the first choice and they opted for Manning. The Chargers chose Leaf with the second over all pick. Deceiving? Maybe just a little bit...But Leaf got a four years contract worth more than 30 million dollars, one third of it as guaranteed money (a signing bonus).

Leaf was rich. He became a little cocky. Before playing one game, before even winning one game, he told the press bluntly: "I'm looking forward to a 15-year career, a couple of trips to the Super Bowl and a parade through downtown San Diego".

A couple of trips to the Super Bowl? A parade? Was I the only one that had a strong feeling that it was about to get ugly for our little champion? Although he already had issues with his team about his attitude, he played well during pre-season. Heck, he even won his first two regular season games.

That's when the wheels came off...

He started to throw more interceptions than touchdowns (for those who don't know much about American football, an interception is basically throwing the ball to a member of the opposing team...which is not good at all!). Funny thing, he also started to slip on imaginary banana peels. He would trip and fall on his butt without being push or tackled by an opposing player. Basically, he was inventing new ways to screw up. He was finding new ways to lose games.

Teammates were beginning to lose confidence. Sports reporters were murmuring words like bust. Pundits were saying Payton Manning was the real deal. Was Leaf spending too many nights partying in Vegas?

The pressure on the young man seamed, at the time, to be unbearable. The bubble was about to burst. That's where we got to know the dark side of Ryan, as you can get a taste it in this video:

Ryan was carrying such a load. Any stupid question from the media was interpreted as an insult. He was young, immature and throwing tantrums at will.

His worst fault? Being rich at such a young age (and being so immature). It gave him the illusion that he was entitled to something. Fans didn't see it that way. It was more the other way around: Ryan Leaf owed them something...for all the money he got.

But his problems didn't end with that. They were only beginning. He got a serious shoulder injury. Then he got into an argument with the Chargers General Manager, his boss. He was suspended and fined. Back from injury, his performances were terrible and he was released by the Chargers. For all the money he was paid, Ryan gave them only four wins in three years. It was a disaster.

After his release, he leaped from team to team. The downward spiral only continued until he hit rock bottom and decided to call it quits.

He then found a "job", as a volunteer, as a quarterbacks coach with West Texas A&M University, a small Division II college. He found a way to mess that up too. Addicted to pain killers, he tried to get some of those pills from the university football players. He was forced to resign (as a volunteer!!).

As if it wasn't enough, he got deeper in his mess (see the video):

Spearing you the legal details, after pleading guilty, he got 10 years of probation and a fine. All of the sudden, he became a joke, a running gag (see video for an example):

Happy ending? You betcha!!! He got into drug rehab which seems to have worked out for him. He understood that Ryan Leaf didn't mean much in Canada, so he moved to Vancouver. Great place for a new start. He got a normal job, and occasionally works for sports radio. And despite being on the right track, last June, he had surgery to remove a benign tumor from his brain stem (It simply never ends for Ryan...).

Now, he enjoys not to be the superstar stud anymore. He also got a book deal for a three books to be written about his football career and personal life, the first of which was released at the beginning of November 2011. He's now in the business of helping others about that for a transformation?

"How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man?"
- Song: Blowing in the wind - Artist: Bob Dylan

In Leaf's case, I can't tell you if Leaf became a man. But one thing is for sure, figuratively speaking, he must have travelled 3/4 of the roads on Google Maps. And for him to show, humbly, signs of change, is remarkable and almost miraculous. Let's just say that almost everyone threw away the towel with regards to Leaf. This story reminds us that we are alone in this life and that it all starts by loving what and who you are.

But you know what? When you really think about it, this story is not about Ryan Leaf. In truth, this story is a tribute to second chance, even if sometimes it seems unlikely. At one point or another in our lives, we all need a second chance.


This week’s lucky number: The clue...You go on a trip to Canada, more precisely in the province of Quebec. You stop at a convenience store. You buy two soft drinks ($2.50 x 2) and six packs of jawbreakers ($0.19 x 6). The answer is the total amount it will cost you. (Bonus clue...don't forget to add the two sales taxes that sum up to 14%).

Clever song lyrics: "We can't afford to be neutral on a moving train." - Song: Deer Dance - Artist: System of a Down

Cheesy song lyrics: "My only addiction has to do with the female species. I eat 'em raw like sushi" - Song: Rico Suave - Artist: Gerardo (Question: you eat them with chopsticks, soya sauce and wasabi?? Dude!!!???)

Sad (and shameful) Clown of the Week:  Joe Paterno. He was a "God" at Penn State. He was a "God" in Happy Valley, PA. There is NO WAY he didn't know about Jerry Sandusky "horseplaying" in the showers. Shame on you. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, Joe.

Happy and Dandy Clown of the Week: Barack Obama. Giggling, as he watches the The Republican Party Presidential Primaries.

Great idea for a movie sequel: In the first movie, a teenage girl, who moved to Washington State, found her life radically changed when she fell in love with what she thought was a vampire. In the sequel, she finds out that the boyfriend is not a vampire but only a pale skin dude, with a bad case of psoriasis and genital herpes, that could not pull off fake fangs from a previous Halloween costume.

Something a Martian might say if he came to visit earth: Hey! Dude! The Republican Party Presidential Primaries is a spin-off of Saturday Night Live, right? It makes fun of politicians on how stupid they can be, right? That Rick “oops” Perry character is hilarious.

Good song for Rick Perry’s campaign: “Oops! I did it again.”

Love letters, comments, opinions and complaints:


  1. a second chance, a second chance to redo any mishaps we make and most importantly a new self and a new beginning.

    I believe that God gave him this second chance and I'm really thankful that he chose to turn another new leaf in his life. God be with you Ryan Leaf and thanks Mike for sharing this inspiring stories.

    Keep on sharing friend, ^^

  2. it was really a beautiful story..really beautiful..keep going

  3. @Lydia : Thank you for your kind words. As always, I appreciate your comments.

    @Darjeeling Boy : Thank you for the kind words.

    As long as you keep reading them, I'll keep writing them.