Urban Meyer's Big Night Out
On a positive note for the Jacksonville Jaguars, they finally have something to distract fans from their awful 0-4 start to this football season, which, if you’re keeping score, marks 19 straight losses for the franchise. That’s the good news, which, if you’re Jacksonville, comes in short supply. The bad news is how they created this diversion. It’s not with a big player acquisition, or some charitable project, or a new owner or facility or something like that. It’s not even something that happened on or near the field. The thing that’s keeping everyone from talking about how bad the Jacksonville Jaguars are is the off-the-field antics of their first-year head coach Urban Meyer, the former college coaching phenom who would bring his brash style of championship football to the downtrodden pro franchise.
If you don’t already know the story, Meyer was taped last weekend in a Columbus, Ohio bar – named Urban Meyer’s Pint House, by the way – where a much younger woman who was not his wife danced uncomfortably close while he sat at the bar. This video – well, actually two versions of the video, including one that was extremely unflattering to Meyer’s public persona – circulated faster on social media than a Kardashian wedding announcement. And within hours, the story about the Jacksonville Jaguars went from how they are one of the worst teams in history to how their new head coach has lost his locker room and perhaps half of his earnings.
Since that time, Jags owner Shad Khan has publicly reprimanded the face of his program, saying that his actions were inexcusable and that he now has to earn back their trust. Kind of like what you tell your kid when they lie to you for the first time. There are also several reports about Meyer losing the locker room, which is what people say when players can’t stand their coach. I’m guessing that if they locker room is in fact lost, it has far less to do with a shady nightclub video than the fact that the team is awful. And finally, Meyer has now undergone an apology tour to everyone in the Jacksonville organization, like it’s the NFL version of Jim Bakker and the PTL Club. For the record, this is likely not the best way to instill faith in your fans that you are in fact moving in the right direction. This may be the only team in the country that Jets fans look at and think, wow, that’s messed up.
There are several questions to answer following Urban Meyer’s big night out. One of them that I do not care at all about is his personal relationship with his family. If we were to be concerned with every person who has displayed questionable ethics around their married life, this would be an unending commentary. And whether I disagree with Urban Meyer’s, well, let’s face it, creepy behavior, I feel like there’s a lot more important things in this world to care about. Like the state of the British Royals, or whether Mediterranean Below Deck is going to be renewed for another season. So I don’t really care whether Urban Meyer moves from the Pint House to the Dog House, if you will.
What is interesting is the way in which the role of head football coach is framed in the public conversation. When Urban Meyer ran afoul of his personal life, there seemed to be a nearly instantaneous assumption that he had also violated the premise of his professional life. That because he acted in an immoral way in his private life, he was no longer capable of being the leader of young men – to steal from popular vernacular. That leading a football team is as much about presenting a mythology of righteousness as it is about finding the right players and calling the right plays. Such is the Great Man theory of coaching, whether there’s any truth to it or not.
To be clear, coaches are rightfully getting intense scrutiny at this particular moment, especially in light of the seemingly predatory behavior of at least one professional women’s soccer coach, behavior that didn’t seem to get any of the scrutiny befalling Urban’s short movie despite its clear violation of all human morality. So I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t hold coaches to a high standard. I’m simply wondering if there would be so much righteous indignation if the Jags were, say, 4-0 instead. Maybe the apology tour would be, shorter. Then again, Jacksonville fans would certainly need fewer distractions.
Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler
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