"Urban Meyer straight up died today," ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo! Sports, and literally every sports news website in the world will say. "We tried to warn him, ask him how his heart was doing, but did he listen? No. And now he is dead. Super damn dead. Here's what his heart looks like: phhhbbbbtttt."
It's what they're looking for, right? Seriously, they don't put most athletes through the same kind of wringer with regard to health questions that they do with Urban Meyer. Now almost a year and a half into his hiring, he's still fielding questions about his health, as he did in this ESPN segment. To wit:
Asked by ESPN to compare the current Urban Meyer to the one who won the national 2006 national championship at Florida, Meyer said, “I’m in a good place right now. I think once you hit a certain point in your life you don’t want to go back there. I feel great and I’ve got a bunch of good guys I’m working with and I trust my staff, and in the off-season I’m off. ”
So, story over? Of course not! Why would you listen to anything that comes out of Urban Meyer's mouth? The dude is a walking boil of pent-up rage and heart palpitations, literally seconds away from blowing an indeterminate number of valves in front of a recruit and destroying the WHAC in the process. He and his family (who affirm that he's in full Jimmy Buffett mode) cannot be trusted to give accurate information about personal family matters.
So the media will ask repeated personal questions about Meyer's health until they get an answer that actually gets page views. Like the world's worst alums of Hollywood Upstairs Medical College, they will look for any signs of weight loss, family stress, excessive sweating, or just generally looking like Christian Bale in the Machinist. And you'd better believe that OSU's first loss under Meyer will be circled on their calendar.
The problem isn't that these questions are without merit, or even that they're inappropriate. Meyer's health problems, which were due to stress, are well documented, and considering his job and compensation it's understandable that both the media and OSU fans would want to know the health of their coach.
The real problem is that these questions seem to show a fundamental lack of insight as to what makes people who take head coaching jobs in Big Time College Football tick.
Let me put it this way: let's say you had a heart attack right after work and then a blood clot was found in your leg. Or, screw it, you're prone to seizures and have had like four of them in less than three months, while on the job.
Most people would say "Holy geeze, my job might literally kill me. Maybe it's time to seek another profession, like dog grooming or deodorant testing or something involving scented oils" and seriously reconsider their career path. But since both of those things literally happened to Mark Dantonio and Jerry Kill, both of whom were right back at it weeks after major health episodes, maybe they're made from different stuff.
I'm not endorsing that stuff, however.
I've been adamant in the past that I think Jerry Kill shouldn't be coaching college football because of his health issues, and the longer Dantonio coaches, the most likely his heart condition is to flare up again.
But that is now the nature of the beast, and has caused us, the fans and the media, to become pretty huge hypocrites when it comes to coaches and their personal well-being. We expect head coaches to justify their multi-million dollar salaries by almost literally working themselves to death, while at the same time hand-wringing in the offseason about their personal health.
"Coach, we're gonna need 750 texts out to recruits by 9, you've got a meeting with the Board of Trustees from 9:30 to noon, practice is from 1 to 6, there's that alumni event at 7, and we need you to finish filing the NCAA paperwork by 11pm and your secretary just called with 389341249 more menial tasks you need to complete and Jesus dude, could you take a little time off for yourself?"
Head coaches are Type A personalities with borderline OCD natures who have a complete inability to sit still for any real amount of time and gladly accept the working expectations put upon them. There's nothing wrong with that, but there is a danger when people who aren't like that assume that people who are must be infallible superhumans and therefore can deal with a measly life-threatening health condition.
Remember how much resentment some Florida fans still have toward Urban Meyer for his perceived subterfuge. Many of them think that he had to have been faking his health problems, or at least exaggerated them, because dammit, how come all these other guys are doing fine and Meyer can't handle a little stress?
Which brings me back to the original point: the questions about Meyer's health. Guys, this is a process. Asking repeated questions about Meyer's health, which amount to a transparent attempt of trying to read the tea leaves about Meyer's future health, is a futile game. Is he healthy and relaxed now? We'll never really know for sure, but sure seems like it, and his family is backing that up. Which is great, but because Meyer is the very embodiment of that Tye A micromanaging football CEO, that will all go out the window once the season starts. Because we demand that it does.
So maybe, if we really want to figure out how Urban Meyer is doing, we should look at the burdens we are placing on a guy under extreme duress to carry each and every single one of them, rather than ask him periodically if he's getting enough sun or spending enough time with has family. Because in a way, OSU fans have more control over that than our head coach does.