Coach Ryan's Corner: This is the day of the expanding man

It seems like I’ve started treating Coach Ryan’s Corner as “Ryan dissects music lyrics to prove a coaching-related point.” I’m a nerd, what can I say?

Few songs really speak to my soul more than this one. This time, I’m not referring to Yea Alabama.

Steely Dan’s Deacon Blues tells a story of a man who feels downtrodden by life. He gazed through the glass, looking at people living a big life. Y’know, ramblers and gamblers.

He has no support and love. They call him crazy and a fool. He wants to learn to work the saxophone. His friends basically tell him to get drunk on Scotch whisky and die behind the wheel.

I could dissect every line and every verse of that song. And believe me, I have.

I play this song in times of celebration.

  • The first time I played that song for celebration was after my beloved Crimson Tide won their 13th National Championship in 2009.
  • The second – when I received my proof copy of Written in the Stone.
  • The third – after I passed my Accomplishment Coaching exams. Oh, I’m walking down the waterfront in Downtown Manhattan, singing that song at the top of my lungs and crying my eyes out.

This song brings out tears of celebration every time. Lots of tears.

It’s an important song for me. My late father speaks to me through that song.

The more I dissect the words to that song, the more present I am to something incredibly special.

What is a king?

A king is many things. But primarily, a king lives his life on his own terms. A king lives his life at his own speed.

The song’s protagonist is living a life beneath him. He wants to learn to work the saxophone. He sees that as the way he can be a king.

The final line of the final verse gets me every time. And notice I haven’t mentioned the name drop of my Crimson Tide…

"This brother is free.

I'll be what I want to be."

That is a king. Does he ever become a star sax man? Does he ever get the record contract? The live concert album at the Blue Note?

We don’t know. But he’s free from his peasant life. And he’s free to be what he wants to be.


A king is the expanding man.


Notice that I’ve been using words in this newsletter like “king” and “peasant”. Keep these in mind. I’m going to make a big announcement next week in this space around that.

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This is the day of the expanding man. Let’s be kings and queens.