By Jim Weber
You probably didn’t know that Western Michigan hired Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receivers coach P.J. Fleck as its new head football coach in December, as the news amounted to a tree falling in a forest.
So allow me to introduce the Broncos’ new head man, who is not only the youngest FBS head coach (32) but also its wackiest not named Les Miles. Just check out this glow stick dance party with players and students at Waldo Stadium this spring and Fleck doing a can opener into a freezing lake for charity.
Need further proof?
Look no further than the “Coach Fleck Video Series” Western Michigan is producing this offseason, one that’s full of enough anagrams, slogans, metaphors and inspirational stories to fill a motivational speaking tour. In the seven videos so far, Fleck has talked about the team’s “Row the Boat” motto (which tragically originated from the death of his second child), laid out a blueprint for the program, explained the definition of a “Bronco mentality” and the five kinds of people in the world, detailed the importance of “heartwork,” defined the acronym F.A.M.I.L.Y. (“Forget About Me, I Love You,” which his mentor Greg Schiano used at Rutgers) and detailed the importance of treating every day like a Friday.
Miles is known as the most quotable and entertaining coach in college football. And while there will only ever be one Mad Hatter, if this video series in which the Mad Rower meanders from Tony Robbins-like inspiration to Tom Cruise-esque kookiness is any indication, Western Michigan fans and all of college football is in for a new treat:
Episode #1: “Row The Boat”
2:50: “My goal is to have an oar in every hospital, every bank, every bakery, every dorm, every classroom – whatever it is, I want to have an oar symbolizing the energy of where we’re trying to go.”
I love picturing this scene at a Kalamazoo bakery:
Employee #1: “Son of a b*tch, we just burned another batch of cookies!”
Employee #2: [Points to oar]
Employee #1: “Thanks dude, I needed that.”
4:42: “If we don’t have people sacrificing, our boat’s going to be made out of paper mache. And we’re gonna send it into the water, get it ready to row and it’s just going to sink. We’re trying to build Old Ironsides here. We’re trying to build wood upon steel and then wood and then steel and then wood and then steel. That’s what we’re trying to build. A boat that’s indestructible.”
I take it Fleck wasn’t an engineering major in college because that sounds like the worst-designed boat ever.
8:52: “This is shark-infested waters we’re in. There’s nobody hanging off the side of the boat: You’re gonna get your leg eaten off. You’ve got to be either in the boat, or out of the boat.”
First of all, this has to be the first time anyone’s compared the MAC to shark-infested waters. Second, wouldn’t your leg hanging off a boat with sharks swirling around at least be safer than not being in the boat at all? Just sayin’…
Episode #2: “Block W”
1:21: “Within that block W, there’s core values: it’s R, T, B. R, T, B also stands for ‘Row the Boat.’… (and also) ‘Responsibility, Trust and Belief.’”
[Wakes up from nap] Did I miss the part where he explains the fire balls?
2:28: “The definition of responsibility for us is taking accountability for your actions and your choices… If you brush your teeth, you’ll have nice, shiny teeth, no cavities, nice breath. If you don’t brush your teeth – you choose not to – you’re going to have cavities, you’re gonna have bad breath, no one’s going to want to be around you.”
Should we be writing this down or will there be a handout after this?
7:11: “Believe in the vision. One vision, one voice. Believe in it. Not falsely believe in it. Believe in it. Die for it.”
First there was Ride or Die. Then there was Vote or Die. Now apparently there is Row or Die.
8:00: “But the attitude that I put forward is directed energy. That’s the definition of attitude within our program is directed energy. That’s why laser beams are so powerful because so much energy is stored into one particular spot.”
How about sharks with freakin’ laser beams on their heads? Now THAT’S powerful…
9:19: “People ask me all the time, ‘Well, you’ve never been a head coach before.’ True! But how can I become a head coach until I become a head coach?”
And I’ve gone cross-eyed.
Episode #3: “Bronco Mentality”
0:50: “And the first part of that mentality is a nekton mentality. The second part of that mentality is a Prefontaine pace. And the last part is a farmer’s alliance. And I know it sounds a little bit out there, but it is.”
No, coach not at all. Neither is having pictures of a shark with a seal in its mouth, distance runner Steve Prefontaine and an ear of corn on the wall of your office. All perfectly normal…
1:12: “A nekton is an organism that can flow freely through any water current and the water current will never dictate where they go…. And a nekton is never full. If you put five million seals on the surface of the water, a great white shark’s going to continue to eat it and eat it and eat it and eat it – and never get full. He’s not going to sit there and get his Thanksgiving day lean on.”
I’m guessing there’s a couple Western Michigan professors that would disagree with that statement. And I really hope “Thanksgiving day lean” becomes the new “Harlem Shake.”
4:22: “Farmer’s are the greatest. If you go back to my house in Sugar Grove, (and) look out my back window, there’s a farm. There’s a cornfield for miles. But the great thing about that was farmer Johnson’s farm was right behind us. Farmer Bob’s was next to him. And farmer Johnson always took care of his corn. This guy was awesome. He always had the best corn at the Sugar Grove corn boil every year.”
If Fleck ever breaks out this story in a team meeting, a player is obligated to interrupt with, “No I will not make out with you!!! Did ya hear that? This guy wants to make out with me in the middle of practice. You got Corn Boil Man up there talking about God knows what and all he can talk about is making out with me. I’m here to learn, everybody, not to make out with you. Go on with the corn boil!”
5:17: “There’s two types of people in this world. People that bring you up, people that bring you down. People that are vampires and people that are multipliers. That’s it! There’s nobody else!”
Um, right. P.S. Check out those vampire fang hands!
Episode #4: “Elite”
1:27: “Just think about the most average team of all time. Probably couldn’t think of one, because there have have been millions of average teams. They conform to one another. They’re like amoebas. Just kind of bump into one another and form something else. They just kind of go with the wind. They’d be opposite of a nekton. “
Fleck is seriously going to cause a Western Michigan science professor to have a mental breakdown by the time he leaves Kalamazoo.
Episode #5: “Heartwork”
0:35: “There’s two simple phrases that we use here. There’s ‘heartwork’ and there’s ‘a hungry dog’s a dangerous dog’… and we symbolize it by a steak, a t-bone steak.”
How much random crap can one man fit into his office?
1:03: “Everybody can work hard, but not everybody can work hard with their heart. It’s like the Grinch. The Grinch started and his heart was small and black. And then it just continued to grow and grow and grow and grow and grow and grow. And boy, he became a heck of a person. A who – whatever he was…”
[Thinks for a minute] I’ve got nothing…
Episode #6: “F.A.M.I.L.Y.”
1:42: “I could tell my wife – I come home everyday, put the briefcase down (and) say, ‘Love you, honey.’ But then I stay at the office for 24 hours a day, lock myself in a room, watch film and never see my kids, never see my wife, never spend time with them, never take her on a date, never play with my kids. Do I really love them or my wife? Do I love them – or just love my job?”
“He lost me…” – Nick Saban
Episode #7: “Everyday is a Friday”
0:05: “I’m not able to tell you and sit here that I’m a huge reader… I’d rather listen to something on tape than actually read it. I think it has something to do maybe with my energy, maybe my ADD or whatever it is, but I am always moving. I’m still waiting for someone to invent glasses that the words just go right across so I can move and read at the same time and keep my eyes up.”
Nothing you just said was even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought.
2:41: “I walk up and down our halls, people think I’m crazy – especially people that don’t know me. I just walk by and go, ‘Hey, happy Friday!’ ‘Coach, it’s Wednesday. Geez, you know, this guy’s lost his mind.’ But they don’t understand what I’m saying to them… That’s what ‘Everyday is a Friday’ is about.”
It’s official: P.J. Fleck is THAT GUY at the office you hate. And please tell me this means Rebecca Black is on repeat 24/7/365 at the WMU football facilities.
3:05: “Everyone has something to overcome, everybody has bad days. Everyone does. But it’s how you handle that bad day. Your thought process and how you’re handling it that makes it a Friday. So happy Friday, everybody.”
See what he did there???
In all seriousness, I can certainly see why Western Michigan hired Fleck despite his never being a head coach or even a coordinator. He’s incredibly charismatic, optimistic and energetic and could be just what the doctor ordered for a Western Michigan program that doesn’t have much historical success or tradition.
The same attitude Fleck worked wonders for his mentor Schiano at Rutgers, with the latter’s “Keep choppin’” slogan essentially the same thing as “Row the Boat.” And like Miles, Fleck sounds like a great motivator that will always have his team fired up and never willing to quit. Fleck’s personality is simply infectious and makes Western Michigan immediately watchable just to see what he will do next.
After all, seven episodes in, I’m more hooked on Fleck’s video series than “House of Cards.”