Don't Tinker With That Ticker

By Johnny Ginter on April 24, 2013 at 2:00p
Looks good, feels goodCOME AT ME

"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.

The blurst of timesThinner.

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.


Comments Show All Comments

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

Urban Meyer straight up died today.

Please don't ever start another story like this. EVER.

dan_isaacs's picture

They did for the page views.  :)

Dan Isaacs

Doc's picture

We should be willing to accept .500 teams to let Urban relax and be himself.  The thing is if we did that he would be unhappy and would leave and then we would be the psycho ex with the restraining order yelling at him from 200 yards away, "We did everything and anything for you and it wasn't enough.  We love you Cupcake, please give us a second chance."  I'll take the demand for perfection and the drive to get there.  I think Urban likes it that way.
In all seriousness, I truly hope he has found balance and he gets time to relax and enjoy the fruits of his labor.  I want him to be our coach until he is old and gray.

CJDPHoS Member

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Warfield's picture

I think ESPN doesn't like the fact that Urban left Florida for the Bucks so this line of questioning persists.

Nicholas Jervey's picture

I don't understand the headline. Could you dumb it down a shade?

The common rationalization that being paid millions is fair compensation for health-straining duties doesn't work. As for hypocrisy, it's not hard to manage it if you place winning below health. And hopefully without getting too self righteous, I'm comfortable that I don't contribute to the problem with unreasonable demands. Getting everyone to follow your standards is a wee bit tougher.

I'd rather the school drop to Division III than to contribute to the stress coaches suffer though, be it esophageal acid reflux or heart attack or a stroke.

Ceci n'est pas une signature.

Savage45's picture

I'd rather NOT drop to division 3! That's plain crazy.
Almost all jobs are accompanied by stress and in most cases your compensation is directly related to it.

Hovenaut's picture

I think Urban learned from Gainesville, and both recharged and renewed himself for the betterment of his personal and professional interests.

And at the end of the day, as a native son, he's home. Hope he stays awhile.

buckz4evr's picture

I think he is fine.  My son saw him and his son messing around in the parking lot of a local, middle of the road restaurant the other day.  They were most likely waiting in line to get a table.

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

Coach K took time off from Duke during the 1994-95 season to have back surgery and recover from exhaustion. Now, granted, it was surgery, but I don't recall anyone hounding him for years afterward questioning his allegiance to Duke, even though in the time leading up to it he spoke at length about burnout and exhaustion.
If they want to think that Urban is out the door in three years, or that only a crazy person would leave Florida for Ohio State, or that there's really a conspiracy to all of this, let them go ahead and think it. I can't imagine how it helps them prepare for or cover a Buckeye team with Urban Meyer really, like for real, on the sidelines.

Toilrt Paper's picture

Only HATERS think Urban is not being a good family man.
Does anyone worry about the health of the head coach at Kent State?
In every Alabama press conference do they ask Nick Saban if he's been a good boy?
Hell, Hoke and Bielma are heart attack's waiting to happen. Do they get health questions at every presser?
The REAL issue is people in Florida, Utah and at ESPN think Urban is a liar.

ArizonaBuckeye's picture

Exactly. Well said.

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you." -Woody Hayes-

MediBuck's picture

Just to throw in my two medical cents here, I think the media's fixation with Meyer's health is ridiculously overblown not just from a reporting perspective, but also a physiologic/pathologic one:
There's nothing wrong with Urban Meyer's heart (at least that we know of).
Our Commander-in-Chief has a condition called diffuse esophageal spasms (DES). In this disease, the muscles that help you swallow contract incorrectly squeeze in an uncoordinated manner. Think about the last time food got stuck in your throat. Now imagine it 1000 times more severe and lasting nonstop for several hours on end. Since the esophagus runs through the chest, it can manifest as extremely powerful, horrifying chest pains accompanied by sweats, shortness of breath, and racing heart that certainly can mimic a heart attack, but has nothing to do with the heart itself. Sadly, my girlfriend has the condition, and the pain is enough to knock you writhing in agony to the floor (both of us are in the medical field and it stills scares the crap out of me when it happens).
Luckily for us Buckeye fans (and personally myself) the spasms are frightening and painful, but outside of the discomfort, not actually life-threatening (nor lasting over 12 hours). Better yet, there are medications that both reduce the likelihood of it occurring as well as terminating the episodes when they happen. They're quite effective--the only problem is that many people with DES go undiagnosed, or are labeled as having an unclear "heart condition". In short, Coach Meyer can just pop a pill if he feels one coming on, and it will reduce the severity of symptoms.
"Why, you ask, would this then cause Meyer to leave his job at Florida?" I don't have a definitive answer to this, but one of the biggest triggers of DES is stress. We know now that Meyer was under a tremendous amount of pressure at UF in his final days there, and had worked himself raw away from family, friends, and happiness. In this regard, I'd guess that restarting in his home state, surrounded by loved ones, restructuring his priorities (not to mention decreased football competitiveness in this conference) would be huge in reducing stress, thus decreasing the number of DES attacks. He also has appropriate medications now to control the disease.
In short, Coach Meyer's health won't be as much of an issue at OSU as it was at Florida as he now has effective meds and (hopefully) decreased stress.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

MediBuck's picture

Also, DES is way preferable to Mark Dantonio's condition (actual heart attack, totally life-threatening) and Jerry Kill's disease (epilepsy, potential for serious injury and even death).

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

doodah_man's picture

Unless I am mistaken, I was led to believe that tOSU Wexner Medical Center is one of the top facilities that perform research/treatment for DES. Thought I saw that back when he was hired.
BTW, you don't suppose that ESPN would keep raising this heart problem story for their usual pot stirring sell sports at all costs business model do you?

Jim "DooDah" Day

"If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” --Wilbur Wright, 1910

741's picture

There's an off season?

andretolstoy's picture

Growing up an Ohio State fan; graduating from Ohio State, if I were given an opportunity to Coach a big time school other than Ohio State, I'd probably take it but it would cause me stress that it's not the place I love. In some instances it would be agony.
I have an inkling that the stress that Meyer is feeling now is a bit more of the healthy kind that is a result of a competitive nature and wanting to win for the school he loves instead of the win at all costs stress at a place that is darn good, but not home.