Photo: Book cover
The King of Halloween and Miss Firecracker Queen
By Lori Leachman
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Lori Leachman, an economics professor at Duke University, is the daughter of Lamar Leachman, a former NFL assistant coach with the Detroit Lions (1990-94) and New York Giants (1980-89). Lamar passed away in 2012 at age 80 while suffering from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease in addition to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). He played at the University of Tennessee in the early 1950s, including as a starting center and linebacker on the Volunteers' 1953 team.
Leachman recently hosted a seminar at Duke that included experts on CTE and head trauma in football and sports in American society. One of the featured speakers was Harry Carson, a Pro Football Hall of Famer for the New York Giants. Carson and Leachman were members of the the Giants' Super Bowl XXI championship team (1986) season that beat the Denver Broncos on Jan. 25, 1987 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Carson and Giants quarterback Phil Simms wrote forewords for the book.
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The King of Halloween and Miss Firecracker Queen is a memoir about growing up in the South, football, and the death of the patriarch from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). It tells the story of a life in football from a daughter’s perspective. It provides an intimate look at one family’s rise through the ranks of competitive football—from player to high school, then college coaching; followed by coaching in the WFL, CFL, and NFL, and ultimately to Super Bowl champions. It also chronicles the family’s struggle to deal with and understand the decline of the father who was at the center of this lifestyle from CTE.
The first 2/3rds of the book present the Leachman family’s rise through the ranks of football coaching: starting as a high school football coach in Savannah, Georgia, progressing to college coaching at a variety of schools in the South, and then heading north to coach for the defunct World Football League, the Canadian Football League, and ultimately the National Football League. Given, the time period, 1960-1990s, the book also addresses the issue of racial relations in the South during the period of school integration.
The last 1/3rd of the book chronicles the Leachman family’s struggle to deal with the growing incapacity of the patriarch, and to understand the causes of that decline. Lamar Leachman was ahead of the curve with respect to the onset of his disease. He began showing signs of degeneration in the early 1990s, long before the presence of any medical evidence, and a decade before the NFL would acknowledge the existence of CTE, and its link to football.
Told in a rich Southern voice, this is a story of one family’s love of a game and each other. It is a story of one man’s strength of character and the woman’s love that sustained him. It is a coming of age story of a strong-willed, independent young woman. It is a story that will make you laugh and make you cry.
You can read pieces of the book, see the endorsements, and pre-order from Amazon or Barnes and Noble at www.lorileachman.net
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Jim Proebstle's book, Unintended Impact, is another family story about dealing with and learning to understand the impact of CTE. Jim was a starting tight end on Michigan State's 1965 national championship team. His older brother Dick was a Spartans quarterback until a concussion suffered during the team's 1964 spring football drills. Doctors told him to give up football.