Urban Meyer will no longer be the head coach for the University of Florida’s football team. According to ESPN college football analyst, Kirk Herbstreit, this is a decision that was a long time coming and not a “knee-jerk reaction” to the Gators’ December 5th loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Meyer, according to Herbstreit, had been thinking about stepping down for as long as two years. His heart, literally, cannot take the stress. He has experienced “severe” chest pains on more than one occasion and wound up unconscious and in the hospital after his last bout, which occurred right after the SEC Championship Game loss. I am no fan of Meyer or the Florida Gators but I wish him no ill will and hope he takes the time he needs to get healthy, both mentally and physically. My question is this: Will Urban Meyer really stay away from coaching? Can he?
This year alone, Mike Holmgren, Brett Farve and Kim Clisters (yes, women do this too) all returned from very brief (and in Favre’s case, multiple) retirement from their respective sports. Going back in time, Roger Clemens, Martina Navratilova, Michael Jordan and George Forman all retired only to change their minds and make successful comebacks. Shoot, even the band the Police reunited in 2007 after saying they probably never would. Though, to give them credit, they had been away for quite some time when they reformed and only did so to mark their 30th anniversary (and make a boat load of money).
It is easy to understand why athletes, musicians and actors would want to step away from the spotlight. Robert Downey Jr., who stars in the recently released motion picture Sherlock Holmes, is apparently contemplating not making movies anymore. Downey Jr. told Entertainment Weekly, “I’ve never had it this good — this is my day in the sun — and I certainly don’t want to look a gift horse in the molars. But [my wife] Susan and I want to begin to be in our lives as much as we are in our jobs. I’d love just to sit here and say, ‘What movie’s playing tonight?’ I’d love to finish the new book about D-day I’m reading. I love painting, I love music.”
I get it, they think they want to live normal lives. They’ve reached the pinnacle of success. They’ve earned more money then they can spend (well, not if “they” are Nicholas Cage), are sick of living in the spotlight, or as in Meyers’ case have made themselves sick by living in it. Even us mere mortals retire early. And studies show that sometimes we shave years off of our lives by doing so.
What is interesting to me, is how short memory can be. Human beings, especially those who know what it is like to reach the top of their given profession, have a difficult time walking away and then staying away. I believe that Urban Meyer believes he is retiring. I just don’t believe he will stay retired. I don’t think he can.
*Update* It is now being reported that Meyer is not resigning but is taking an “indefinite leave of absence” and could return to coaching as early as next season. Wow, that was even quicker than I thought!