Tony Sparano’s Death Has Sports Business Questioning
When Bud Grant coached the Minnesota Vikings from 1967-83, he followed his instincts on bending the profession to more sensible uses of time.
The Vikings were almost always the last team to start training camp. Grant did not spend nights in the office. He went home for dinner and came back to work the next day.
Result: Four Super Bowl appearances (no wins, sadly) and election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Now, with most teams, the hours are grueling, the meetings long. Too little sleep, too much snacking, not enough exercise or family time. Just a few years ago a coach for the Carolina Panthers talked about the shorter Friday practices because that was the day he could go home and see his son.
And we haven’t even gotten to Dick Vermeil quitting the Philadelphia Eagles due to “burnout” or Joe Gibbs getting cassette tapes from his wife that updated him on the kids as he drove to Redskins Park for another marathon stay.
Tony Sparano, twice an NFL head coach and the Vikings’ offensive line coach until his death at 56 on Sunday, was known at Dolphins’ headquarters for trying to get a little exercise and fighting the battle of the bulge. He suffered chest pains last week, was checked out and sent home. Sunday morning he died due to complications of a pre-existing heart condition.
Success and failure are decided every Sunday (or Monday or Thursday) during the season. There’s game tape to review, players to grade, practices and meetings to run. Game-planning for the next opponent. Days start early and run late, if they end at all. It’s a pressurized atmosphere that never really ends.
No idea if Sparano had any underlying medical conditions. Condolences to his family, friends and the players who loved him.
Free advice to coaches: Go home once in a while. Some rest and a clear mind may be better for you professionally than grinding endlessly.