Before we do anything else today I just want to say a few words about something that happened on this air yesterday that I won’t forget any time soon. I spoke to a man named Paul Lapolice. I can’t honestly say I know Paul Lapolice personally. I feel I know him because I paid so much attention to what he was doing as the head coach of the Blue Bombers. I watched him on the sidelines like any other tv viewer when the Bombers struggled more often than not. I watched a man who cared deeply who was frustrated deeply at the end of his rope deeply and then one day, his bosses cut the rope and he was gone. He has resurfaced on TV and does a very good job as an analyst.
But yesterday on this show he wasn’t analysing football. He was analysing life and telling us about what really matters in life and that’s character and that people of high character never stop fighting for themselves and for others. Who taught Paul Lapolice that? David Leitch turned out be the teacher of that oh so valuable lesson. David Leitch the 23 year old who died this week after having lived and died many times over the years physically and mentally and emotionally and David would have died biologically had it not been for the Blue Bombers. I don’t want to talk about the cruelty imposed on young people by Spina Bifida. I want to talk about the goodness imposed on people like Alex Brink and Terrence Edwards and Justin Goltz and Paul Lapolice who spent time over the years with David Leitch keeping his spirits going and giving him a reason to live.
Even though most people will think about the story as the strong football heroes helping the weak physically disabled young man, about what they gave to him, the real story is about what David Leitch gave these athletes, and their coach. While they were giving him a reason to live, he was giving them a reason to believe in real wins and real losses. Real wins in life aren’t recorded on a scoreboard at a football stadium. Real wins are when people help other people to deliver the best of themselves. And the best part of any human being including an athlete isn’t in his throwing arm, his catching hand, his powerful legs or his ability to tackle man who is moving swiftly on that gridiron like a speeding locomotive. The best part of any human being is that part called character, where you tackle your insecurities, your anxieties, your deepest fears, and you wrestle them to the ground, character where you run for a touchdown every time you touch someone in the deepest part of their soul making them want to keep breathing, and doing ,and smiling and conquering their disappointments their disabilities.
David Leitch’s father never saw the son he sired. David Leitch’s mother saw him and didn’t like what she saw and abandoned him. David Leitch’s grandmother beat on him over and over again. David Leitch took a blade to himself and wanted to bleed out and get out of the coffin on wheels he was riding around in. That’s how it felt until a father figure like Paul Lapolice refused to abandon him, instead he engaged him and inspired him and gave him brothers to help do the same, Alex Brink, Justin Goltz, Terrence Edwards and other members of the Blue and Gold.
Why won’t I forget the conversation with Paul Lapolice. Because until yesterday morning the name Paul Lapolice in my brain represented losing coach. David Leitch’s life tells me Paul Lapolice is no loser. He’s a winner where it matters. David Leitch gave Paul Lapolice and his athletes and this broadcaster far more than we could give him. He gave us a living definition of what it means to be alive and to stay alive for as long as you can and to have a purpose to your life. A life with no meaning is a coffin. David Leitch may have been confined to a wheel chair. But his heart wasn’t confined by it. His soul wasn’t confined by it. His imagination wasn’t confined by it and his spirit was unleashed by the power of belief in something larger. For him it was the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I know there are some people who confine their imaginations. They feel the Blue Bombers are just a sports team and Paul Lapolice is just a coach. David Leitch knew and now we know that just isn’t close to the God’s honest truth. The team is made up of real men, and some of them are of high character whether they play for the team or not, whether they have more or fewer points on the scoreboard. David Leitch scored every day he was able to be at practise or at the game, and the father figure who never abandoned him and never would Paul Lapolice scored with me yesterday and I’ll bet he scored with you in ways that are far more meaningful than any football game.
The game of life is ten thousand times more precious than any one football game. David Leitch found that out from Paul Lapolice, and he discovered that inside David Leitch. Paul is much more than a coach and David was much more than kid beaten up by life in a wheelchair. Thanks again Lapolice for coming on this show to teach us about the meaning of life. Thanks again David Leitch for teaching Paul Lapolice what it means to be a human being. Rest in Peace David, knowing the rest of us miss you and love you and will follow your path. We will never stop fighting.