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NFL Week 11 recap: The unseen stresses of football

Tuesday - 11/19/2013, 6:46pm  ET

kubiak.jpg
Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak watches warm-ups before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Houston. Kubiak is returning after collapsing on the field Nov. 3 at halftime of a game against the Indianapolis Colts.(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

WASHINGTON - Two weeks ago, we saw something rather unnerving: a pair of NFL head coaches collapsed and were subsequently hospitalized. Two middle-aged men holding one of the most stressful jobs in all of sports appeared to have succumb to the pressure in a rather scary way.

Serendipitiously, Broncos coach John Fox was in Charlotte for a pre-op appointment for his previously scheduled aortic heart valve replacement surgery, when he passed out playing golf during his team's bye week. The next day, Texans coach Gary Kubiak unpredictably had what is described as a "mini-stroke" (which is a layman's term for a transient ischemic attack, or TIA). While the circumstances were quite different, the level of concern was much the same.

Both men insist their respective episodes had nothing to do with stress, but I know better. You see, I had a similar episode a few years back.

I was stuck in a bad work situation, dealing with a deteriorating marriage, and was a little jet-lagged because of a trip from Montana to Pennsylvania. After one day back at the job I could no longer stomach, I went out to cut the grass on a hot, August day. About three-quarters of the way through the chore, I felt light- headed, went inside to sit down, and passed out. I was rushed to the ER, where I was told I was dehydrated and fatigued.

As a broadcaster, I use my voice for a living. Meaning, I get my proper daily allowance of water just by virtue of keeping my pipes wet. Plus, I had cut grass in much hotter weather than I did that August day and never had a reaction like that. I contend that if I hadn't been under the amount of stress I was, at the time, this episode would not have occurred.

Perhaps a better example comes from my late father. He spent several years working as a top-level executive with General Motors, and simultaneously worked to establish his own business. He essentially worked two full-time jobs while raising three children. That stress, coupled with being overweight, led to the heart disease that contributed to his early demise.

I'm sure Fox and Kubiak believe wholeheartedly their careers have nothing to do with those episodes. There's even a chance they're right. But if you don't think working 60 to 70 hour weeks, in a line of work that requires near perfection, doesn't exacerbate heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes I'm not sure I can help you.

I don't know if there's a way to get these guys to scale it back for their own sake. Besides being fiercely competitive, the NFL is a multi-billion dollar entity and the stakes involved aren't going to suddenly get lower.

However, it's a very high-profile reminder that these coaches and players we're discussing are real people like you and I. They think and feel like we do. They're mortal.

And now for something that'll live forever. The NFL recap.


Colts 30

Titans 27

I've run out of superlatives to describe just how clutch Andrew Luck is. After this dude erased a 14-0 first-half deficit, I'll just say that if I had to play one football game with my life on the line, I want the guy named Luck with a horseshoe on his helmet to play quarterback for me.

Redskins 16

Eagles 24

When the Bravehearts rolled into town, Philadelphia knew what was coming. And now, so do I: Back-to-back prime time losses at FedEx Field for the 'Skins and maybe two more wins in this miserable 2013 season.

Ravens 20

Bears 23 (OT)

Thanks to Mother Nature, this game ended later than some of the late games. It's not the first time this year either. Ravens games in New Orleans (Super Bowl XLVII), Denver, and now Chicago have been delayed for power outage and/or weather. I know there's a dark cloud following Baltimore these days, but this is ridiculous.

Jets 14

Bills 37

Here's some free advice, New York: If you have a choice between fine tuning your game preparations for a divisional rematch and going to Dave & Busters, maybe do the work instead. Otherwise, you might just get blown out by 23.

Browns 20

Bengals 41

Cincinnati's bye week comes at a very opportune time. After a trip to San Diego, they play the Colts, at Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Baltimore. The AFC North is their division to lose.

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