Wetmore: Revelations of Mike Zimmer's self-doubt are humanizing
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It's easy to lose perspective following or covering sports. Among other faults, we tend to forget that sports are at most a diversion of our interests from other things in life that matter more. We tend, too, in our analysis of defensive schemes and point-scoring optimization, to forget that ultimately these are humans performing under intense constructed pressure.
We may be most guilty of this in the NFL, a league where machismo and hero-culture are rewarded and sustained on a grander scale than any other modern sport.
When I say 'we,' I'm generalizing, because really I mean 'me.' I think it applies to a wide swath of sports fans I know and also to many whom I don't.
That's why Mike Zimmer's comments in a FOX Sports article over the weekend are refreshing.
Speaking at an NFL career-development symposium in Philadelphia, Zimmer revealed that he almost gave up on his dream of becoming an NFL head coach. According to FOX Sports' Mike Garafolo, Zimmer was so disappointed after getting passed over this offseason for yet another head coaching job (believed to be with the Tennessee Titans) that he nearly withdrew his name from consideration for the Vikings vacant job before his second interview.
While flying back from an interview in January, Zimmer learned he had lost out on a job, Garafolo wrote. Here's an excerpt from the FOX Sports piece:
Seeing the news while airborne had Zimmer pondering his fate during a layover....[Zimmer] was ready to accept he'd be a career assistant.
"It was like, 'Why even do this?' It was to that point. I figured I was getting too old. It thought, 'Forget this.'
That momentary indecisiveness and self-doubt reminds us that Zimmer is human and reacts to pressure and stress the same way the majority of us might.
Mike Zimmer and I don't have much in common at all, from what I've gathered. I might never understand the pressures that go into his job. But his comments over the weekend struck a chord and reminded me that, despite largely being on opposite sides of the glass, we both go through periods where we question if what we're doing is right or if we'll ever be good enough at our job.
This column is not to prop up Zimmer and suggest any shortcomings will be tolerated here because 'he's only human.' As a member of 1500ESPN.com's Vikings coverage team, I still will objectively point out his shortcomings and praise his accomplishments.
Sometimes, though, it's nice to be reminded that behind the tough-guy façade that cloaks most professional athletes and coaches, there is a human experiencing the kind of emotions that would not seem foreign to you or me. Disappointment, self-doubt, joy, fear, anger, pride, satisfaction.
Zimmer, according to the story, talked to a couple people, who urged him to attend the second Vikings interview. The article even says Zimmer didn't think he'd want to coach the Vikings, until he found in that second interview it was a much better fit than he expected.
The rest, of course, is history.
Zimmer decided to catch a flight for the second interview and won the job and received virtually universal praise and more than a few 'it's about time' reviews from supporters. The prevailing opinion after the Vikings hired Zimmer away from Cincinnati seemed to be that he's a man who had long deserved a shot at running a team and never had been given his chance.
Now, after handling repeated rejection and confronting self-doubt, the rookie coach and human being will have his chance.