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Daniel Ruth

Personal foul, excessive whining

For starters, before some of you Gator Nation devotees start getting your pom-poms in a wad, let's all agree that University of Florida football coach Urban Meyer is a good man, a motivator of youth, a gridiron genius and all-around stellar chap.

And can we also agree that if Meyer had the season Florida State University's Bobby Bowden just had, nobody would give a rat's patootie about his virtues and would be calling for his head on a pike? Loyalty has its limits, and it begins somewhere around a 6-6 won/lost record.

The 45-year-old Meyer has announced he needs to step aside from the stresses of running one of the country's premier college football programs to attend to health concerns and spend more time with his family. Much has been reported about the immense strain that organizing all those X's and O's can have on one's physical well-being.

The heavy responsibility of caring for 108 athletes under his wing apparently has taken its toll. Still, it is hardly surprising that within hours of announcing he was stepping down from his job, Meyer apparently had a change of heart and announced he was merely going to take a brief respite from the sidelines.

That makes some sense. After all, Meyer makes some $4 million a year to coach football. If he really wants to appreciate stress, trying living on … well, not $4 million a year to coach football.

Just how much of a Herculean workload did Meyer have to bear? According to one of his assistant coaches, Steve Addazio, the head coach had to juggle the demands of his players, recruit new players, make phone calls, receive phone calls, prepare for games and, of course, play nice-nice with alumni.

Being the head coach of the University of Florida's football program is a year-round job. Imagine that. Urban Meyer is expected to punch the clock for 12 months.

"It's a tough life," chimed in another Gator coach, Dan Mc-Carney.

Uh, two words for all those hankie-waving sycophants. Shut up! For the love of God, please, please, please, just SHUT UP!

Sure, we can stipulate running a football program with high expectations for national championships and the like is certainly stressful — up to a point.

But if Meyer and his whining brain trust really want to know about stress, perhaps they would care to spend a year teaching in an inner-city high school. Maybe a few weeks as an undercover detective working the drug beat would help them redefine stress.

A tough life? Making gobs of money to send in plays to quarterback Tim Tebow is a "tough life"?

Tell that to some 20-year-old Marine slogging through a Taliban-infested, land-mine riddled ravine in Afghanistan. No doubt this kid would feel Urban Meyer's pain in having to fly in a private jet to persuade a high school phenom to cast his lot in Gainesville. Oh, the brutal tension of it all!

At some point this week someone likely received a grim diagnosis at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. Any bets they would be more than willing to swap that stress with worrying about how to contain Alabama's passing game?

Florida has an 11.5 percent unemployment rate. Families everywhere wake up every day wondering how they will feed their children, pay their mortgage and simply get by until tomorrow. And all Urban Meyer — at $4 million a year — has to fret about is beating Georgia.

To put this as gently as possible, when it comes to workplace pressures, Urban Meyer and his hand-wringing jockstrap supernumeraries don't have a clue about real stress.

Like many football luminaries, Meyer is famous for putting in long, 12-, 14-hour days. This is the macho, testosterone, manly man fiddle-faddle myth of coaching football — the inordinate length of time one puts in breaking down film and strategizing somehow has a direct correlation to what happens on game day.

If Meyer can't figure out over the course of normal business hours that Tennessee's Lane Kiffin is a twerp, he probably shouldn't be a coach in the first place.

For his sake and his health, Meyer should make good use of his time away from the locker room and realize that coaching even a high-profile program like Florida need not be something out of the galley slave scene from Ben-Hur.

It is still possible to turn the lights out at the office at 6, go home, have a drink and dinner with the family and still crush LSU.

And this is where Meyer's wife, Shelley, comes in, assuming a sort of Caesar's muse of the Swamp role to walk behind her husband when he starts to go all Dr. Strangelove on everybody and remind him: "It's just a game. It's just a game."

Personal foul, excessive whining 12/31/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 31, 2009 4:29pm]
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