For those of us who love sports, as well as great content, it’s been a rough few days.
Friday evening, we learned Grant Wahl, among the elite writers at Sports Illustrated for more than 20 years, died while covering soccer’s World Cup in Qatar.
He was only 48 years old.
Tuesday morning came word Mike Leach, Mississippi State’s head football coach perhaps known more for his hilarious — and often-times thought-provoking comments — instead of winning games, passed away after reportedly suffering a massive heart attack Sunday.
He was only 61 years old.
I loved reading Wahl’s stories. He used to write a lot about basketball — including a 2002 SI cover story where he introduced the world to a high school kid named LeBron James — until sharpening his focus on soccer. I appreciate great writing and have the utmost respect for those who have the talent to bring their subjects to life. I’m not a soccer fan, but if a story had Wahl’s byline, I was in. I knew I would be educated and entertained.
Before Leach arrived in Starkville, I wouldn’t take five minutes to watch a State game — unless the Bulldogs were playing LSU. But the past three seasons, if I were flipping through networks and saw where Leach’s team was playing, I stopped and watched. He was quirky. Make that flat-out odd. But Leach was also one of the smartest offensive football minds in the game — and had been for years.
His interviews were often comedic. In 2019, when asked how he wants to be remembered when people write his obituary, Leach said “Well, that’s their problem. They’re the one writing the obituary. I mean, what do I care? I’m dead.”
Then earlier this year, there was his post-game interview with Alyssa Lang from the SEC Network. Engaged, Lang asked Leach for wedding advice.
“Go elope,” he deadpanned. “Because basically, every female in the family is going to terrorize you until it’s over.”
Leach made college football — and the usually mundane interview — fun.
Wahl made reading time well spent.
But what strikes me most — what’s hit me hardest — about the past few days is their age.
I already mentioned Wahl was 48 and Leach was 61.
It’s worth mentioning again.
I recently turned 59. My fiancé’ is 62. We have plans. Getting married. Building a house. Watching her grandkids grow up.
I haven’t really thought about dying before all that happens.
If you are older than 48, think of how much life Wahl will miss.
If you are older than 61, think of how much life Leach will miss.
Then do what I’ve done the past few days. Stop thinking about next week, next month, next year.
Start thinking about TODAY. Enjoy what TODAY has to offer. Be a blessing to someone TODAY.
Wahl thought today, he would be writing a preview of Sunday’s World Cup finals.
Leach thought today, he would be at practice, getting his team ready for its bowl game.
For both, today never came.
Contact Tony at SBJTonyT@gmail.com