Tuesday, December 29, 2009

9 comments National Columnists Argue Over What Urban Meyer Should Do With His Life

As I am sure everyone has heard by now, Urban Meyer retired, unretired, and then took a leave of absence from the University of Florida football program all within the past three days. I have no idea why Urban Meyer did what he did. Apparently he thought his medical condition required extended time away from the Florida Gator football program, then decided he would miss the team too much and he didn't need to quit completely. Needless to say national columnists have had a field day with this. Ranging from Jay Mariotti doing his typical "Mariotti criticizing someone for a personal decision" column to Mike Celizic saying if Meyer was selfish by continuing to coach the team and even questioning why the University of Florida granted the leave of absence. It's a bizarre situation, no doubt.

The thing that has annoyed me the most is people have said he "pulled a Favre," and putting this situation in the same category as my least favorite waffler. It's not like Favre's situation at all. It would be like Favre's situation if Meyer retired from coaching and after the University of Florida had hired Dan Mullen to coach the team announced he wanted to come back and coach Florida. If he couldn't then he wanted to be released from his contract. Then Meyer went to the University of Wisconsin, retired after that year and then signed with the University of Alabama to be their head coach. Then, and only then, would the situations be comparable. You can't tell this to Mariotti and Celizic though.

Mariotti is first.

I am trying to understand the fluctuations of the human mind, the magnetic pull of pride and ego,

It sounds like Jay is trying to understand himself a little bit.

Mind explaining, Urban Meyer, what those very bizarre 24 hours were just about?

If there is a worse sportswriter who should be giving recommendations on how to lead their life than Jay Mariotti, I would love to know his/her name. Jay Mariotti gets paid to scream into a camera. He gets paid a lot of money for this. Here's all that is required to have this talent:

1. Find a camera
2. Pick a position on an issue
3. Scream into the camera

Mariotti has also alienated pretty much everyone in the entire world with his terrible sportswriting, and frankly, I think the only people who like him are paid to like him or at least paid to deal with him. Throw in the fact Mariotti's job is to just give his opinion on sports in emphatic fashion while being surrounded by food and drinks at all times and I just find it hard for Mariotti to understand what kind of advice is appropriate for Urban Meyer and his family.

So this is a man who should not be giving advice to Urban Meyer on life decisions in my mind.

All your anguish about slipping in and out of consciousness in the back of an ambulance, your heart heaving in pain and feeling heavier than a barge, your mortality teetering much too early at age 45? All your tears when telling your team Saturday that you were leaving the Florida football program for health reasons, sounding like you'd never return?

All a product of an overly emotional decision based on probably being very scared about his future health and coaching with this medical condition. It all sounds irrational, and it probably is. Meyer probably didn't want to be a "figurehead" coach like Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden and was afraid if he wasn't 100% healthy he couldn't coach like he wanted to. Once he calmed down, he realized he could still coach the Gators and make life changes that will allow him to coach the Gators for 20 more years.

For the record, I don't like Urban Meyer and I hate the Florida Gators. I can be nice and fair to those that deserve it, but overall I wish Urban Meyer would never win another football game at Florida.

for all his decreeing and anger at everyone, I would think that Mariotti would be nicer since God has already put him on warning once before.

when your oldest daughter proclaimed, "I get my daddy back!'' and you suggested the scene with her was a message from God?

She is 18 years old and going to Georgia Tech next year, so it's not like she hanging around the house for the foreseeable future. She is 18 and calls her father "daddy." That's all I have to say about this.

What happened to the breakthrough perspective, the perfectly-in-place priorities that had you propped up like a clear-minded American hero during the holiday season?

It sounds like he changed his mind. He decided he could balance football and his health. It's his life, if he wants to die on the football field and leave his family without a father, this is a personal matter. That's probably not going to happen, but many of the same jerks who thought Meyer quit Florida to pursue other jobs (of which I was one and let's be honest, a lot of people initially thought that), can't now pretend they thought Meyer was really retiring for his family and criticize him for this decision.

Well, Meyer's grand stance for health and family lasted all of one night, until he awakened Sunday morning in the town he and Tim Tebow made famous. That's when he went to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the Gators' final pre-Sugar Bowl practice in Gainesville, where he gazed at the national championship signs in the Swamp and noticed how lively and energetic the players were.

That reasoning is stupid, I can easily admit that. Still, this is a personal decision for Urban Meyer and I have to be honest a little bit, with his health problems not being life threatening I was wondering why he completely stepped down as head coach of Florida. I thought he should take a leave of absence and get his health under control and make lifestyle changes before he comes back...which is what he ended up doing. I thought retiring from coaching completely was a bit severe.

Coaching football is his life. It's easy to criticize him for this decision and completely not think about this. Meyer has worked for 20 years to get where he currently resides in the college football hierarchy. I am sure he loves his family, but he didn't work hard just to give it up when a health problem becomes a temporary road block. It sounds stupid, but it is true.

I wanted to believe Meyer when he said Saturday night that he was quitting in fear of dropping dead, that years of chest pains and an arachnoid cyst on his brain had forced him to value life as a husband and father over his continued journey atop college football's most accomplished program.

This is a lie. Jay Mariotti wanted Meyer to go coach another team or unretire so he could roast him really good in a column. Jay Mariotti himself had a heart attack. I am sure he made lifestyle changes and got back into sportswriting. Assuming Mariotti has family of some type don't you think at least one family member wondered if he would start taking it easier? Well he didn't and I don't think that makes him selfish, so I feel the same about Urban Meyer. Sure being a sportswriter and a head coach are two completely different things, they each have their own health challenges though. Meyer has to commit himself to lifestyle changes if he wants to improve his health. It was a temporary roadblock. I am a little surprised everyone is overreacting to Meyer's initial overreacting by retiring.

So much for Nicki Meyer, the freshman volleyball player at Georgia Tech, getting her daddy back.

Holy crap, she is going to college. She is not a 7 year old child anymore.

If it's too strong to describe his change of mind as disingenuous -- he is dealing with serious health issues -- I'm confused as to why Meyer didn't think things out before coming out so definitively the previous night, particularly in a piece in the New York Times.

He stupidly made an emotional decision and then regretted it. Something may be in the water down at the University of Florida because Billy Donovan did something similar when he backed out of the Orlando Magic head coaching job a few years ago.

If Meyer had made the decision non-definitively in the beginning the media would have firmly jumped on the "he is blaming his health but is completely trying to jump to a different football program or perhaps the NFL." So Meyer wanted to sound definitive, not knowing he would change his mind.

So how does the fear subside in a matter of hours? How does a life-and-death, self-destructive frame of reference disappear upon watching the Gators practice for 90 minutes? "I think it's very simple: the love that I have for these players,'' Meyer said Sunday. "When I saw them come out there today after our meeting we had last night ... when I sat back and watched them go at it and our coaching staff and the program we built, to not try would not be the right thing to do.

He sees his players as family. In bizarro sports world a coach who sticks around for his players because he gave them his word that he would coach them would be celebrated. I don't understand Meyer thinking of his players as family, but simply because I don't understand doesn't mean Meyer is making the incorrect long term decision for himself.

Upon hearing that, I looked over at Meyer's wife, Shelley, and the couple's three children.

Jay was probably just checking out Urban Meyer's daughter. He can't fool me.

Can the man change, take care of himself? "That's what we're about to find out,'' Shelley Meyer said calmly before she and her daughters, also speaking to the media, were interrupted by Foley and Florida sports-information personnel and whisked from the media center into waiting black SUVs.

I can't imagine Shelley Meyer is very happy with her husband's decision. Guess whose problem that is? Urban Meyer's. We don't need to give our two cents on everything, but that's how sports are nowadays everyone gives their opinion on everything and judges whether the decision was right or not.

And yeah, I do it too.

To Meyer's credit, he understands he'll have to change his style as the ultimate hands-on, do-everything coach. The chest pains tell him that much, along with the story of Wake Forest basketball coach Skip Prosser, who died suddenly after a heart attack. "It's something that started about four years ago. It was chest pains that became rather significant two years ago,'' said Meyer, who never let on publicly about the problems until recently.

To be fair, Skip Prosser was 11 years older than Urban Meyer when he died and his heart attack was considered sudden, which means I am assuming Prosser hadn't gotten a lot of advance warning that his heart could give out. It's not like Prosser had warning and ignored the warning signs. Meyer has warning ahead of time and can make the necessary changes to his lifestyle. It's a little bit different situation.

So, how does a Type A maniac cut back? "That's something I've got to figure out,'' Meyer said. "There's obviously other coaches who have great careers and have done great things for a long time. I'm going to get that fixed ... I've had a 30-year career in nine years. You just can't do that.''

It's important to note that while Urban Meyer has an incredibly stressful job, there are thousands of people in the world who have incredibly stressful jobs and also have heart defects or other medical conditions that don't respond well to stress. My guess is that most of the people who have this problem in the world learn to navigate and manage the risk while not up and quitting their day job. It's a different situation, but few people accuse these everyday people of being selfish for not quitting their stressful jobs.

But I'm disappointed that Urban Meyer, blessed with wealth and success, didn't go out on his own terms in his mid-40s and make a statement for humankind.

That he is going to let a heart condition completely dictate how he lives his life? Has Jay Mariotti thought that perhaps there is a guy in Iowa who five years from now will be diagnosed with a heart condition similar to Urban Meyer's and that person will gain strength in knowing if a guy like Urban Meyer, who has a ton of stress in his life, can live with the heart problem so can he? This person will know it's not the death sentence or the health problem that will ruin his life and everything he does. Isn't that a bold statement in itself as well, even though it's not an immediately obvious or public statement? Isn't learning to manage stress and not let a health condition change what you enjoy in life sending a message as well?

Mike Celizic also has a take, other than "who is Urban Meyer?" and "if he doesn't coach for a team in Boston or New York I don't know who he is."

Celizic's take.

It’s about the team, not the individual, and you know that’s what Urban Meyer preaches because that’s what coaches do.

I think Celizic is a little confused. Urban Meyer decided to do what was best for the Florida team in the long run. So in a bizarre way, he lived up to this standard coaches set. In regards to his family, they will just have to understand this decision I guess. If they know him like most people know their parents/spouse, they will eventually understand.

But now he’s asking everyone — team, school, family — to sacrifice for him because he just realized that he’s more important than all of them.

Nearly everyone is perfectly willing to sacrifice for him because neither the Florida football program or his recruits are sacrificing anything in the long run. This sacrifice really only goes for Meyer's family, which makes this a personal decision he will have to live with making.

At least it doesn’t work both ways for most of us. If we’ve got a personal problem, nobody’s going to tell us to take a month or six months or even a year off while we sort it out and not to worry about money because the company’s going to keep paying us.

I think Mike Celizic is the only person in this situation who has a problem with the "leave of absence" part of Meyer's decision. Doesn't he realize how stupid it would be for the University of Florida to NOT grant Meyer a leave of absence while he deals with a personal medical condition? It's stupid even from a non-football perspective. Of all the times to compare what coaches and players do in sports to real life, this is probably one of the most irrelevant times to do this, when it comes to a coach's physical health.

I can't even fathom how NOT giving Meyer a leave of absence was the right decision in this situation.

It only works both ways if you’re as extraordinarily successful and charismatic as Urban Meyer.

Or work in sports. When an NFL player gets cut, his contract says he still gets paid a certain amount of money. In "the real world" many people when they are fired don't get severance packages. Urban Meyer is greatly valued at the University of Florida and I think everyone understands he has to take a few months off to benefit the school in the long run. This would be like not giving a professor with cancer a leave of absence to go through chemo-therapy. I am not sure a school would decline that leave of absence request either.

Win a couple of national championships, give inspirational talks about values and family and faith, attract the top recruits, inspire the alumni to write big checks to the general fund, and you can do anything you want.

Like take a few months off during the part of the season where the team doesn't play games to take care of a non-life threatening heart condition? That Urban Meyer sure is running all over the University of Florida administration isn't he? If we changed the name "Urban Meyer" to "Mack Brown" why don't I feel like we would get the same reaction from Mike Celizic? I think Celizic is being harsh on the University of Florida for granting the leave of absence because Meyer is a younger coach. At least that's my guess.

If Meyer were my football coach I’d bend so far over backwards for him a platoon of chiropractors couldn’t straighten me out again. I wouldn’t care about what’s right.

It's good Mike Celizic says he would do the same thing and give Meyer time off, but what's not "right" about this? So it would be "right" for the University of Florida to tell Urban Meyer, "either coach full-time with your health condition or retire from coaching football completely to get this heart problem taken care of?" This would be the right thing to do? How is granting Meyer a leave of absence not the right thing to do?

On Saturday, when Meyer quit his job because he feared for his heart and his health, he told The New York Times that when he told his family that he had coached his last, his 18-year-old daughter, Nicki, hugged him and said, “I get my daddy back.”

Here we go again...

That hug, he told the newspaper, he took “as a sign from God that this was the right thing to do.”

Well, then Urban Meyer went to go talk to God's right hand man (Tim Tebow) and changed his mind. It's pretty clear from the immediacy of his decision to take a leave of absence instead of retiring was something he regretted very quickly.

If he changes his mind again, then I will jump all over Meyer.

Just a day later, when he went on the practice field and saw how spirited and upbeat his team was, he realized he couldn’t just quit.

Again, this is stupid reasoning. I can accept this criticism of Meyer as being valid.

But believing what you say and actually following up on it are different things. When your daughter says, “I get my daddy back,” that should be like a slap in the face telling you that you’ve been spending too much time in the office.


And when you find yourself texting recruits on your cell phone during church services, as Meyer has confessed to doing, then your faith does not come before your job. If it did, you’d leave the phone in the car.

Because Mike Celizic is the Joel Osteen of sportswriters. He is the final judge of whether a person's faith is the primary focus of that person's life. Once a person dies, he/she has to stand judge in front of Mike Celizic who will tally up all the times that person was doing something else when they should have been focused on their own personal faith. We all stand in judgment in front of Mike Celizic at some point.

Yes, all the other things he talks about are important, but nothing is more important than being what he is: a coach.

He's coached for the majority of his life. It essentially does define him at this point. I don't think this is such a bad thing as long as it doesn't negatively affect the rest of his life (which remains to be seen).

He’s got plenty of money to retire now if he wants, and there’s plenty more doing football analysis on TV. So there’s no reason to keep coaching and keep putting his health at risk. If it really were about family, he’d be an ex-coach now and not a coach-in-limbo.

It's his opinion, if he wants to put his health at risk then it's not Mike Celizic who dies or gets severely hurt, it's Urban Meyer and his family. It's his heart and he thinks he can manage the risks. I don't think this is something that should be put to a group vote outside of the Meyer family.

They don’t delegate. They’re consumed by the job in a way that few people can understand or appreciate. They try to control everything.

Urban Meyer said he is definitely going to try and succeed in making lifestyle changes, he said he was taking a leave of absence until he feels like he can come back health-wise. Then we will know for sure if he can make the necessary changes.

Meyer didn’t become perhaps the greatest coach in college football by not sweating the small stuff. He didn’t do it by putting his feet up and putting problems off for another day. He didn’t do it by cutting back on the time he spends with his team. He didn’t do it by accepting defeat.

And he especially didn’t do it by putting his family or anything else ahead of his job and his obsessive need to win and be the best and do right by his players and his employers and his fans.

So it was perfectly fine for Urban Meyer to get where he currently is by ignoring his family and making football first for the past 20 years? Regardless of some of the scares he has had on the sidelines? But now that everyone else in the world is aware of his heart problem and he is taking measures to take care of himself and his health it's not all right to put football first? What has changed except for Meyer's knowledge of his heart problem and the fact he needs to take time off to make lifestyle changes?

He’s a great coach and an awfully good man. But this one is still about him and not the team. And that’s not right.

Apparently it's fine to make a selfish decision that is all about him when he is retiring and not trying to coach the team and recruits he had made commitments to, but it's not fine to make a selfish decision when he decides to not retire and uphold all the job-related obligations he currently has? I just want to make sure I have this straight.

As far as Urban Meyer's family goes, if his family really thought he was going to just be able to stay away from coaching then they didn't know him that well. I am sure after years of he and his family knowing that there was some health problems he had and him still not taking a step back from coaching, the mere acknowledgment that he needs to learn to delegate and take time off to deal with his health is a relief to his family. We have to remember they have been aware of Meyer's health problem for a while now. I don't think he is being selfish right now, he is being selfish if he doesn't make the necessary lifestyle changes when he comes back though.

I have no idea why Mike Celizic is against the idea of a leave of absence for Meyer. I still don't get that. I think Urban Meyer has earned the chance to deal with his health problems and have the head coaching job still there for him if/when he wants to come back.


Martin said...

Nobody has made it clear, but I'm almost willing to bet that the "Leave of absence" idea was Florida's. Give him time to set up a new system and see if he can stick to it. More delegation, perhaps a workout schedule, bringing in a private chef, (since we know he makes enough money)to cook regular and healthy meals for him. If he can get set in the off season, then see what happens. If it doesn't work, then at least the attempt was made.

Bengoodfella said...

That's highly possible. The Florida administration probably told him he could have as much time off as he wants and they would even hire extra people to delegate some of his duties too. He probably declined at first and then thought about it and wanted to give it a shot.

He hasn't died of a heart condition as of yet, so I don't see the harm in trying. Of course Mariotti and Celizic don't see it the same way.

I think with his stature as one of the most recognizable coaches at one of the most recognizable programs and with those he has around him to help him out, he shouldn't have a problem.

The Casey said...

I think his only real mistake was announcing his retirement on Saturday. If he'd held off on all this until after the bowl game, he could have taken a "leave of absence" and been a special consultant all summer and the public at large wouldn't have had to know anything. I think he'll be back before the start of next season. You seem to see this a lot, a coach/athlete being so burned out at the end of the season they want to call it quits, but after some time away from the game, they're ready to jump back in.

A friend of mine brought up that he was looking for another job, but I didn't really see that. I don't think he's got his sights set on the NFL, and I don't think there's a college program that's a definite step up from where he is now.

Anyway, doesn't somebody owe me a big box of goldfish?

Bengoodfella said...

Casey, I think Meyer made a rash decision in retiring so quickly. Perhaps he should have given it more time. I am shocked no one tried to say I ripped Favre for retiring/unretiring but I am being easier on Meyer. Meyer was only retired for a day so the situations are different.

He made a rash decision and people don't like it when coaches do that. I thought he was going to another team at first as well honestly. It didn't seem like the NFL was his style, but I wouldn't rule it out at the time. As far as other college programs, maybe Notre Dame would be a step up (at least in stature), but other than that there isn't much else out there better than Florida. Meyer's an idiot for the way he handled this.

I have promised so many people goldfish, what did I promise a big box to you for?

Dylan Murphy said...

Too much emphasis is being placed on Meyer deciding to return after seeing practice. It's not that he literally saw his players and thought, "I can't leave these guys." When he retired, he probably thought of all the bad parts of coaching college football: Long recruiting trips, immature college kids (for the most part), and long hours. But being at practice gave him an appreciation for teaching, which is most coaches' reason for coaching. Leaving meant he couldn't teach and guide these kids. So his being at practice probably made him realize he would no longer be able to experience this fundamental part of coaching that got him there in the first place.

Bengoodfella said...

I think the way Meyer handled it was stupid, but I don't blame him or think any less of him. He only "retired" for 24 hours and then he went to practice again and realized why he loves coaching. I think you are right.

He could potentially be an inspiration to those who have a similar heart defect to show you don't have to change your life, you can just manage it in a healthy way. It's not like he is changing his mind constantly, he just initially overreacted and then realized he wanted to stick around.

There is really no difference in coaching without knowledge of the problem like he has for 20 years and coaching with knowledge, other than he can take better care of himself.

I don't like Urban Meyer, but I think everyone is freaking out a bit much.

KentAllard said...

Hate hate hate Urban Meyer. But the fact is, he's been at Florida 5 years, won 2 national championships, and been in the running the other three years. He's dominated his main rivals. So, yeah, Florida is happy to take a small chance by allowing him some room to make his permanent decision on the chance they'll get to keep him, and not end up with Ty Willingham or Mike Shula as the next coach. Not difficult to understand, and any other school would do the same. Win, and you get more leeway. If Celizic was responsible for his paper tripling its circulation, he could take a long leave of absence, too.

The Casey said...

BGF, for the Fantasy Football League. But I'm willing to donate them to the TBotB Foundation for Underpaid Overworked Bloggers. I just wanted someone to acknowledge my win. That was the quietest league I've ever been in.

Bengoodfella said...

Kent, I hate Urban Meyer too. When I read that SI article about his heart problem I was thinking, "good, maybe he will retire early and Florida will start losing." Then he retired and I felt kind of bad about it.

I can't believe Celizic questioned the leave of absence. I think Meyer has shown he deserves some leeway to take a LOA when it is necessary. Good analogy to tripling the circulation of the paper. Good producers get certain perks and Meyer is a good producer for Florida.

Casey, oh yeah...It was a quiet league this year. Next year I promise I will talk more and change the league around a little bit. I already know what I want to change to make it a little more fun. Among them, I am not going to get in a ton of other leagues to where I don't remember which players I have on which team. Junk will be talked from now, I can guarantee that.

Let me work on the goldfish issue. I think I can resolve it without it going to some stupid bloggers.