Average to Savage
Average to Savage

Episode · 4 years ago

Lori Leachman | Average to Savage EP17

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

This is the seventeenth episode of the Average to Savage podcast featuring Duke professor Lori Leachman. Paul Guarino talked with Lori Leachman discussing her book The King of Halloween and Miss Firecracker Queen: A Daughter's Tale of Family and Football, the future of football, and what her experience has been like being a professor at Duke University. Follow Lori Leachman www.twitter.com/Lori_Leachman www.instagram.com/Lori.Leachman https://www.amazon.com/King-Halloween-Miss-Firecracker-Queen/dp/1614488258 Fueled by Lawless Jerky www.lawlessjerky.com/

This is the average to savage podcast with Paul Greno everyone in anyone, athletes, Suett's and much more. It's up everyone. I'm back for another great episode of average savage podcasts. Our special guests today is Laurie Leishman, a professor at Duke and author and an artist. Let's jump right into it, Lauria, your new book is a King, a King of Halloween and Miss Firecracker Queen. So first off, how'd you come up with that name and what's the book about? Okay, so the book has nothing to do with the book is a mean law about growing up in the south in a football family in the sixties and s into the s and been in the last roughly about a quarter of the book is about my father's quon and how we dealt with that from Cte which, of course, he contracted from a lifetime in football. So the title the King of Halloween and Miss Far Cracker Queen. That is actually my mother and Gad my dad was the king of Halloween and eleventh grade and my mother was, as I like to stay this fire practice. She was voted best body by some fraternity or another at the University of Tennessee and as in the book. That a contest you could only have in the days before political correctors. Thanks the loops. So that's the title. For sure it. I was super curious, son, how you got that. So now me. So, piece piece on the title is the fact that my dad died right around Halloween, and so that whole we found that picture of him as the King of Halloween at the what would have been the wake. Essentially, my mother had all these pictures out and that one was just laying there and asked, like blown away by it when I saw it, because we had had this hope dicussion about could we have a funeral on Halloween and would that be appropriate? Yeah, and we decided it was fine.

Goat got. So did you guys know your father had ct say. This is part of the story and the book. My Dad was really at the front of the curve perspect to that and that is in miss good, not a good place to be. What happened for him was he was coaching with Detroit, with the Detroit Lions, and he was, you know, following the play on the field and he got hit on the sidelines. Play went out of bound, he got hit on the sidelines, he fell on the anstor Turk. He had a concussion, blew out, as me, already had bad knee, so in the offseason had to have a knee replacement. So we had surgery. He was recovering from a concussion and between the two of those things, you know, ascid at he was really they never to say he could remember all things football, but he could not remember where he parked his car if he were in a stadium that was not the horme stadium, he couldn't figure out how to get in and out of it. He couldn't figure out how to find the field right and, needless to say, that was quite problematic to continue working. Yeah, for sure. So, I know, like because CT's like bigger like research now, but like, so how did you guys like think about that like that? Yeah, basically what happened father is that he took retirement and we thought that he was just, you know, sort of decrept about retiring and all that. that it happened to that he was sort of pushed into it because his male capacity was furnishing and he started to drink heavily and which, you know, we now know addicition is sort of one of the critical things that goes with mental declarin particularly Cte, and so we all thought that what was happening to him...

...mentally was of his own doing. Okay, it was related to the drinking and you know, he should just feel himself, basically. And what happened is that he ended up in the hospital with another blow to the head because he's been drinking heavily and he was quite illigerent and the hospital and they restrained him on a restraining board and lading horizontal and he momited an aspirated vomit and end up being in the ICU and if he had not been such a big powerful guy, it would have killed him my right in and there. But that was then the beginning of our actually really getting treatment for what was happening to him. And he was out of the hospital, which took about this week, we brought him to do and started having him being treated by the head of the neurological disorders clinic to do. When we went in there, Dr Schnikeel, is what's the hood? The clinic said it is totally lifebelling do and we thought we knew what that meant. We thought it meant that he had these two blows to the head after sixty and that he was a drinker. And so we thought we understood it right. And that point, you know, there was no more alcohol. You know, totally cleaned himself and got a whole new routine going. He relearns how to read and write, which he had lost ex capacity, all kinds of things, and then that was for about four years. He was being treated, going back and forth, and then one day I was reading New York Times article about a retired football great that had cte and what his family was on threw and I started reaching the artibles, just like, oh my goodness, this is everything that we've lived through. Yes, and I called my mother and us, did you got to go buy the New York Times and read this article.

She did, and and his next appointment I took it in with us to the neurological clinics and leading on the desk of Dr Smichael and I said what about this? And he said that's exactly what he had and when I told you that it was lifestyle adduced football, was exactly what I meant, and that's when we had an understanding of what was happening. And at that point, that was at least ten or twelve years into his decline. Yeah, how many concussions did he have throughout like the years? Well, what we know is that he had eight before the age of twenty two. That's what he could remember. That was welcome football right to recall that. He's remembering this after he's had to past the age of sixty. Yeah, so clear that can't be the you know, the full count, but for sure eight before the age of twenty two and two after that's definitely a lot. So what did your family think about you writing this book? In the beginning everybody was very supportive because nobody thought it would amount for much. And then what happened is I mean I was very lucky in the full process. Never had any pension to do this and a publisher actually came to me that we're going to publish the book and it's a timely topic, etc. And so that sort of put the wheels in motion. And then, right before I was getting ready to turn in her final Dallis, my older sister said to me, you know, mom's not really happy about you publishing this book. And at that point I hadn't taken any money and I hadn't turned in the final manuscript and I said look, I could full it because I wrote it for my mother right to try to make some sense of everything he loves for and...

...we chattered about it and she said no, you can't do that. You know, sort of a damage. If you do damage, you don't and basically what was true, as my mother did not want the rest of the world to know our dirty laundry and in particular, you know that my dad took drinking, that you know, there were a lot of very mesty, sort of ugly things in the decline which you know, I white watch that. But since the book is come out she's actually been quite pleased because former coaches, was, people she moved through her life have written her and said, you know, you're just amazing woman. I had, you know, no idea how strong you were. So it's been a really it's been a really sweet gift. Yeah, but there was a lot of anxiety about getting there. Maybe that's the best ways that. Yeah, I can totally can see all that. So what was your main motivation to write this book? Well, I wrote it for my mother. As I said, basically what was true is that my dad had this really long, terrible decline and when he died it was a relief, and that probably sounds terrible to say, but anybody that you know lived with people that are really losing your faculties, both physically and mentally, understand that. You know, you can list so long, you're not the same person right and your quality of life is gone and all of those things. And that was true for my dad and his death was a sweet blessing ultimately. But and I thought because of that, you know, my mother would recover pretty quickly and starts to travel and do some things. And that didn't happen and so I started to think about how could we you know, sort of help her get past that, and one...

...of the things that I thought was that we need to have a bigger sense of the whole story, not just the last twenty years, which will pretty gruesome. And so I had some friends who were writers and I tried to get them to actually write the story and they said me, can't do it, it's your story, you have to write it, and I said, I'm not a writer. So I think it's just perked around and me for a while and then a couple of years ago, on vacation, writing a lot, I was reading a lot. I put a book down one day and said I've got a story and I think and I how to write it, and I just started writing then. Yet and then I've got a lot of help from my writer friends, from my colleagues, support from people to new me and and the King Fellowe and the Star crecord queen is a result of that. I really wanted my mother to see her life in the total arc of it rather than just the last twenty years, and I think now that's happening. Also want to say I was reading a book at The Times. It's for three years I've read nothing but memoirs and I was reading selling man's book called still and belly. Man a photographer and she has a lone in her book the photograph becomes the memory and as soon as I've read that I knew that was true. You know your memory of your Christmas? It's what's in that photograph and what's around it, right, and I saw the story can do that and that sort of will put when in my sale and make me read dedicate myself to the project and finishing book. Yeah, it's awesome. So what would your hopes be for people reading it or there takeaway be from it. First thing I hope people would take from the book is that, you know, we love football, okay, and football defined everything about who we were as a family and the intense of my book is not...

...to, you know, Hammer football, it is to illuminate some of the things that are quite beautiful about it and with the hopes of people will dedicate themselves to reform of the game. So that would be one thing. Secondly, I would hope if other families that are living through issues with loved ones that are suffering from cognitive to Colin and not just Cte, because there are a lot of other things that are associated with repeated head injury, like, you know, Parkins's dementia earlier, early on sets dementia and things of that sort of nature, that they would have a little more grace for themselves and what they go through. One of the things that I write about in the book is that I was very impatient and not at all understanding of what my father was going through and I in fact made his journey harder MP because of my judgment, illness and my attempts, quote quote, to help in the situations. And I think there are a lot of other people that you know have the same sort of reactions and response that I did, and I hope that everyone would give themselves a little grace and forgiveness, because we're all sort of doing the best we can in the situation that we don't fully have an understanding of. Okay, and I'm part of a group, this group of women of the NFL at, which is wives and daughters and mothers and that sort of thing, and I can tell you that we have not seen the peak of this yet. It is pervasive and it is happening to young the families where the husband is maybe forty years old, just retiring, they have young children and my heart breaks for that, and so I am hoping that...

...other people going through that will take some comfort from what we went through. Yeah, it's definitely said. I know you said people are reaching out to your mom. I'm assuming other people are reaching out to you too, right. Yeah, I mean really, one of the things that's been so sweet about this call is people that sort of knew my dad or knew or knew of my dad are getting in contact. For example, about three weeks ago I got an email from a guy named wrong Smith and Ronniemail me and said, I've just read your book. It's great. Lamar Leachman wasn't mysical figure. Played against him in high school in Savanna. He recruited me to play at the University of Britshman. Everyone that knew him thought he was mythical and you have done a great service to him by telling the story. And it turns out that wrong Smith was the poet boreate. Virginia's some two thousand and fourteen to two thousand and sixteen. So they're all these little ripples, you know, that are starting to sort of converge and come back. Yeah, and it's just really sweet. Sure. So what do you think the NFL should do to try to I guess prevent CD? I know it's not preventable, but less than I was hoping we would sort of get to this, because that'd be another mission with my book. Given what we've lived through and what is now happening more pervasively, I would hope that there would be some momentum behind reforming the game. I am fully aware of the wonderful thing is to come from football, the sense of camaraderie, of being part of something bigger or the fact that you know it cuts across socio economic class, Cross...

...race, you know all of those things. I get that, and those are valuable things. And so let's try to make the game more world bust going forward, and I think that there are quite a lot of things that the NFL could be doing with respect to that. Unfortunately, I don't seem much happening. Number One, I'd say I don't understand why there is not a dedicated subcommittee on the NFL rules committee that is undertaking reform of the game specifically with the intent to reduce head injury. Rule changing is very easy in the NFL. Why do they not have a broad representative body? And this means players, coaches and owners that are real and physicians that are really talking about how we can change the nature play? Okay, that's number one. Number two, there are small things that they can do that won't change your fan experience at all with respect to the game, and let me just give you an example of one. In the CFL they line up essentially with the yard between the offense and defensively. In the NFL they line up with about ten to twelve inches. Okay, and just that little different makes a huge difference than the momentum coming off the lawn and Lineman's centers. Those are the number one positions for repeated head injury, seat the incidents of CTE, etc. So just changing that difference on the line wouldn't change your experience at all. It would reduce the momentum coming off the line and so some of the trauma impact. Okay, I mean clearly equipment changes are happening, the introduction of technology is happening, but those are not a complete solution. Okay,...

...in the Ivy League they're experimenting with how they practice, and not just in terms of what's full contact practice, but in cert on certain teams they have had the team practicing with a helmet the other half practicing without a helmet and trying to assess the impact of that. So there were things you can do with respect to practice because, look, you practice a lot more than you play, right and you know, even with the rule changes, like the rule change they just made about head down and penalties, you know those rule changes are only as good as the enforcers right and we just saw in the last week of play that that was really bad. Hoc thanks were called. They shouldn't have been. Things that should have been called. Clearly we're not, and so I would say better officiating is also going to be really part of the solution. Yeah, for sure. There are lots of things that could be happening and where they are happening, they are not happening in the NFL, and this, to me, is the problem because my view is, and I've been at a lot of different institutions over the years, I'm an academic by training, and what separates the quality institution from one that is not is leadership, and the top of the football pyramid is the NFL and we have not seen the appropriate leadership with respect to this issue. I think there are a lot of reasons for that, which we could talk about or not, but it's a problem in my view. Yeah, definitely. Now, being a professor at dog, are you currently doing anything with the football team there? Well, one of the things that I did do in February is that I worked with some of my colleagues in the law school, principally of woman Namedorian Coleman, who is a runner and writes about sports law,...

...and we put together a forum one day, Forum on football head injury and the future, and we had historian US talk about the role of football and culture. We had neuroscientists from a duke and the surrounding community. Some had been on the NFL questom community, some have been on the players side. We had biomedical engineers talk about, you know, equipment and technological changes. We had they had of ethics at do hospital talk about the issue of informed consent and we also brought in Harry Carson to talk about essentially the future of football and how we go forward, and that for me was actually hugely eliminating and very, very valuable and thinking more comprehensively about the issue. Our intent is to actually write a white paper about it which sort of blaze out the parameters and the issue, but none of us have gotten to that yet just because of other things on our plate. So that's a long answer to we aren't doing anything specifically with football, but we did invite the coaches, the team. The trainer came as their representative and you have to understand that when you put together programs like this and Cte is the topic, people are very reticent that are currently actively engaged in the sport to particip take yeah, for sure, I could see that. It's it's a catch twenty two for them and they are very sympathetic aware of the issue, but they were not represented on the panel. Yeah, but would you like to work with them more? Yeah, I mean I know and actually dad through reputation. I know...

Kevin Wide Baby. I think they're both quality people. I had a couple of football players in my class this past spring. I invited all of them to the event and one can. So yes, you know, I would like to have more interplay and voice and in that space, but it's a I recognize it's a really, really, really tricky space. For sure. You have kids that are living their dream and you're asking them to think about the downside of that. Yeah, it's yeah, definitely. So you think football is going to be around in, say, fifty years? I hope so. I hope it won't look like it does now exactly, but I hope so because I just as I said, I think there are a lot of things that young men get from playing sport. It doesn't have to be football. Yeah, but you know football is one of the dominant so I would hope that that would be the case. But let me say a couple of things with respect to that. It's already clear that you know, middle class folks are not letting their kids play football in the numbers that they used to. I wouldn't let my son's play football and I had to luxury of having a good job and being able to abort their college so I didn't need a scholarship for them. Okay. And if the NFL doesn't, and it but will, doesn't perform itself, essentially what's going to be true, is it? It's going to be a ghetto. I mean it's approaching that now, but it is clearly going to be that. And it's going to be a gladiator sport, all right, and I don't know what the appeal, broad appeal, of that will then look like. Hopefully it would be less,...

...but I don't know. You know, that's a sort of you don't known to you get their kind of thing, but I would I would hope that there would be some move to eliminate contact football for anyone blows the age of sixteen. And this is an aside, and in s the American Pediatric Association recommended that no one played contact football before the age of twelve. The s they had rescinded that recommendation from pressure, but now we know there was a real reason for that. Okay, and so I don't think anybody should playing contact football for the age of sixteen. I think the NFL, if it had a real visions the future, should be providing equipment to every public high school team across the country, and it's a tax deduct for them. It makes the game safer, it helps shut up their pipeline. And let me just give you an example of how they could start. All right, don't have to meet all or nothing at once. What they could do is they could provide every player and high school football with a good mouth guard. One thing we know is a good mouthguard really makes a difference and the potential for sharing and head impact and the severity of it. And they could even say compliments that the NFL, because your stafety is important to us. Okay, it be a win win for everybody, for sure. Right. Yeah, and so there are there are things that they could be doing right now that are small, that are trivial to their bottom line, and that would be meaningful. And this is what I mean. I don't see the leadership at the top on this issue, but that's a long answer. Will it? Will it be here in the future? Host so, but it will require a change for that to happen. Yeah, definitely, for sure. You ready for some later questions? Yeah, so why did you become a...

...professor? Let me tell you, Paul. Somebody asked me that one time at a business conference and I said to them, Oh, you thought I should have been the homecoming queen. Okay, because what they were saying to me is, Oh, you're not ugly and you're an academic. Rights. Exactly what was being asked to me. Why did I become an academic? I became an academic because of the lifestyle there were. I'm not built to work fifty weeks a year, ninety five. That has never been my inmo and academics provided me a setting in which I could have a career, not just a job, and have time off and flexibility. It allowed me to be the type of parent I wanted to be. I wanted to be able to go to my kids soccer games with them and take them to the doctor and have the flexibility for that and be successful, and that was one of the few environments where that was a possibility. So that's really why I got a PhD. I started with masters of gree teaching and figured out this was going to be the right sort of rhythm for me and then went back and got Ph D. and I want to add here that I think that one of the reasons I was able to do that is the household I grew up in, because my dad was friggin let us and you never quit before you cross the gold and the goal on in this case was the PhD. Okay, yes, I dropped out for two years after I got my master's degree and taught at the University of North Carolina and Charlotte, and my dad about lost his mind. He called me every week to tell me that I was in college, drop out and now I had a master's screen right. It...

...was just relentless and he was not satisfied until I went back and finish. And so, you know, while I did not do it for my father, I am sure part of that upbringing enabled me to complete the task. Yeah, for sure, it's awesome. What's it like being a professor at Duke? It's great. Yeah, I'm you know a lot of institutions and I can say without a doubt that dude is the best institution I've ever been at. Part of it is, for since resource rich, part of it is, I believe that it is private and not subject to state legislatures and that sort of craziness. And part of it is that the quality of the student body is so great that you can always shoot for the top because the nature of them and their competition with each other, they will they will always figure out how to get above the bar and that means it's it's wonderful to teach. You could do things that you just can't do, an expect things you can expect and a more typical class setting. Yeahs. And how did you get into art, in painting? One of the things I write about in the book. It's the fact that I grew up in a house where there was no art, there was no music. It was all about competition, okay, and intellect, and part of that was because my dad was color blind. Okay, I realize that he you know, he was color blond in tone death, and all of our life just revolved around sport. But I always liked art, okay, and I always sort of dabble the d but never felt like I wanted to have that to make a living at it. And then so I always tinker and then when I turned fifty, one of the things that happened is my brother in law died very quickly,...

...about a Luteinia, and I thought to myself, of my life is passing up, fifty years old. You know what, if I only have five more years to live, am I doing what I want to do? And the answered that was no, m so I basically, you know, had a life of Deiphany and quit my job and and said to my chair, you know, I quit. Had A big administrative job, D I'm not going to lead you hind and drive, but I just can't. I don't want to do it anymore and maybe you'll convert me back to full time teaching, maybe not, but I'm still quit. My partner was great for me and they did do that. And I took a sabbatical and took a painting class and that was when I was fifty and was sort of the beginning of it. I mean I've always been doing it, but that was when I said, okay, I've been a dual aton at this. I've been a Dualatn at it because I didn't want to confront fail your that's cowardly. I'm going to dedicate myself to painting and I'm going to have a strategy that within five years I'm going to have a show of my work. And I made that within two years and I've been doing it ever since. So that's a story I like that. So last one. Do you have any other projects that you're working on now? Well, I'm just finished painting series and I had really productive you are in August, beautiful series I'm doing and, if I must say so myself, and I'm working on getting a show for that in the spring when I'm in Durham. And then I have outlines of two books. But I'm only do one thing well at a time, and so right now it's all about this book and with some painting on the side. In the spring I'll be teaching and so it will be all about teaching and...

...trying to keep this book in play and it will really be next year before I start to turn and think about writing another book or starting a new painting series. But those would be the, you know, the two things on the agenda. I'm no longer doing active ECON on research. I just that's all part of my life epiphany at fifty. Situation Gotcha. Well, I appreciate you coming on and if you want the listeners know where to find your book in how to contact you if they want to reach out for questions. Great. If you can find my book on Amazon or Barnes and noble again, it's the king of Hollway and miss barracker queen by Lori Leechman. It's also available at Wal Mart and target, particularly through all the online outlets, and you can reach me emailing me at Grio or Dot Leachman, lac an at Duke Du or Bluelo, Lulu to Leechman, Ellie a Shima and a gem oncom perfect. Appreciate you coming up. Thank you so much. Fall have a great day now you too.

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