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May 4, 2009

Leach/Sherman tiff could go on indefinitely

The primary function of the media in modern times is not to provide information, but rather to generate controversy and create hysteria. Recent examples of this phenomenon are the Y2K scare, and presently, the Swine flu hullabaloo. In both cases the media manufactured a story, fed the flames to the point of an inferno, and quietly desisted once it became apparent that the emperor had no clothes.

We've seen a similar, if much smaller and more benign scenario playing out in the ranks of Texas college football where a war of words has erupted between Texas Tech's head football coach Mike Leach and his opposite number at Texas A&M, Mike Sherman.

Leach's initial comments were hardly the sort of invective that would cause Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to quail in mortified awe.

Tech's head coach, you will recall, was slightly vexed that the Dallas Cowboys selected modestly successful A&M signal caller Stephen McGee in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft while Tech's brilliantly accomplished quarterback Graham Harrell went undrafted.

In response to this odd reversal of fortune, and taking note of the fact that McGee rode the bench most of his senior season in College Station, Leach quipped, "I'm very happy for Stephen McGee. The Dallas Cowboys like him than his coaches at A&M did."

That was a bit snarky, but the remark was hardly anything unusual for the opinionated Leach and was hardly tantamount to Mike Tyson's profession of gustatory admiration for Lennox Lewis' children.

Nevertheless, the media, scenting a conflict, gave Leach's observation a wide airing, which virtually guaranteed a response from Sherman and McGee. The duo from Aggieland duly complied and the feud was on.

Most recently, Leach issued a scathingly sarcastic appraisal of the A&M football program that was printed in the local paper.

The controversy has now been percolating for about a week and the question is, have we heard the last of it? Or does this sparring session have legs?

One thing to keep in mind is the fact that Leach answers questions. He does not equivocate, he does not evade, and he does not say "no comment." If the media continue to pepper Leach with questions about McGee, Sherman, A&M and Harrell, Leach will continue to provide them with peppery answers.

It does, however, take two to tango. And Mike Sherman, one suspects, is a bit more reticent and cautious than Leach. Fearing a protracted verbal duel with the lawyer-pirate of Lubbock, Sherman may let the thing die.

But don't be the least bit surprised if Leach continues to get in his digs at the expense of the Aggies. He's actually got a long and fairly rich history of mocking them (see "Sometimes a pirate can beat a soldier" and some less than flattering remarks about A&M's Corps of Cadets).

Now it is sometimes difficult to determine whether or not Leach is merely saying the first wild thing that pops into his head, or if he is calculatedly attempting to get inside the head of a loathed opponent. Leach sometimes seems so out of touch with the real world that he appears incapable of coming up with any sort of scheme that doesn't have to do five wides and throw it.

On the other hand, he's certainly thoughtful and sharp enough to confect a plot against the sanity of the Aggies. And if that is indeed the case, we may experience a seven-month firefight between Lubbock and College Station in the run-up to the Tech/A&M football game in October. If that happens, and if both teams turn out to be very good, that game could be even more fun than Tech's victory over Texas last year.

Let the mayhem continue!


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