Pulling for a coach


As far as I can tell, there aren’t many people who haven’t been charmed by Jerry Kill, the football coach for your University of Minnesota Gophers. He’s quite a character and seems to be a likeable guy. And you have to respect a man who won’t talk to Sid Hartman.

But the dark side, as we now know, is Kill has a health problem of unspecified sort, which caused him to collapse at the end of one game this year, and sent him to Mayo Clinic after another game last weekend, taking what was reported as a leave of absence from the program for as long as it took to find out what’s wrong.

When he returned to the practice field yesterday, he said the report that he’d “checked himself in” at the Mayo, was incorrect, as was the report of a leave of absence. And he insisted that doctors are tweaking his medication to prevent the estimated 20 seizures he has a week, which he indicated in a news conference a week or so ago.

Still, his quote — reported in the Star Tribune today — is cringe worthy to anyone who’s had a father or uncle or brother with a serious medical problem who declared, “it ain’t nothin’.”

“I can’t take two weeks off. I can’t take three weeks off. Minnesota hired me to turn a program around, so that’s what I’m trying to do. I can’t do it not being here. If I have to be a little different at practice or whatever, that’s fine. But I have to be here.”

That comes on the heels of a news conference on September 20 that set a new local record for tough talk from a coach in Minnesota:

It’s hard to hear those words without thinking about a 2009 study that said men with “macho attitudes” are less likely to seek health care, or the analysis of that study that suggested that — at least for the health problems cited — they were right.

We have to take the coach at his word, believe that he has his priorities in order, and assume he’s not in any life-threatening danger. There’s zero evidence that we know more about the threat to the coach’s health than he and his family do, nor that we’re in a better position to decide what’s best for him.

But on Sunday morning, for example, Twitter lit up with concern for the guy and a hope that he can get whatever medical problems he has under control, regardless of what it means on Saturday afternoons.

That concern in Gopher Nation does not appear to be because it needs him to fix a football program, a testament to how quickly he’s worked his way into Minnesota’s heart.

Minnesota wants a winner, but this ain’t Texas.