Monday, September 16, 2013

Jim Souhan, Jerry Kill, and Epilepsy.

In the Sunday Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jim Souhan wrote an article entitled "In Category of Health, Kill Falls Too Short to Continue." Souhan now, all so bravely, has disavowed the headline on Twitter ("I don't write the headlines") but let's review what he actually did say -- "How can the school continue to employ a football coach who has had four seizures during or after the 16 home games he has coached at the school, along with an unknown number of seizures away from the public eye?"

First of all, Jim, the law generally does not allow a person to be fired because they have an illness for which they are seeking treatment. Advised of that fact, Souhan has now backpedaled, saying that his actual position is that the Gophers should ASK Kill to quit, and Kill should do so. What a kind man - people with disabilities should not be fired outright; they should just be forced out.

 Jim Souhan, humanitarian. My lord, Ghandi and MLK must be somewhere blushing at the great humanitarian that is Souhan.

Souhan then states that his concern is not only for Jerry Kill, but for the fans who don't want to see "a middle-aged man writhing on the ground." If there has ever been a kinder and more caring way of describing an epileptic seizure, I doubt even Grantland Rice himself could have penned it. Jim, my 15 year old daughter has epilepsy. When she has a seizure, her involuntary body systems completely take over, causing her body to twitch and spasm and convulse. She has bitten her tongue and bled from the mouth, she has hit her head on the bathroom floor. I guess that next time a seizure occurs, my first thought should be, "I feel sorry for myself for having to watch this. Fucking kid - having an illness and all, making me feel uncomfortable." This thought, of course, should be followed with, "Jesus, I hope no one ever gives my kid a job, cuz if they do and she has a seizure, I sure as hell hope they either fire her ass or at least force her out as soon as possible."

I do not wish bad things upon you, Jim. You are just a selfish man who obviously doesn't know a damned thing about epilepsy. But imagine that you continue to be employed by the Star Tribune, and that once every three weeks or so you become so ill that you cannot write your column. Now, imagine that your bosses were fine with that, your co-workers were fine with that, most of your readers were fine with that, but there were a few people who thought, "Geez, yet another day without the gold that is a Souhan column! What to do?" Every morning that this occurs, they show up at the front door of the Star Tribune and demand that the person in charge immediately come out and explain what the Strib was going to do about your illness. You know what your bosses would tell these people? "Fuck off - we have numerous legal and privacy issues, we will issue a statement if and when we feel like it." They would not say "fuck," but they would otherwise tell the people to go to hell, and they would be right to do so.

As an attorney, would I EVER advise Norwood Teague to sit down and have an impromptu press conference about a coach who just had an epileptic seizure? Yes, if I wanted to commit malpractice just to see how the claims process works. While I am sure that Teague would have liked to have gone all Nathan Jessup and screamed, "I do not give a damn about what you think you are entitled to," he did the smart thing and simply said nothing.

There are millions of people in the United States who suffer from epilepsy.  I am really sorry that their existence is so inconvenient to you, Jim.  While Kill is lying on the ground, it is too bad that he cannot be simultaneously thinking, "Geez, I hope this isn't one of the 2 Gopher games a year that Jim Souhan is watching, because then I will have to send him an apology card."  Matt Limegrover, Gophers Offensive Coordinator (a man whose job duties actually ARE somewhat impacted by Kill's illness)  said the following:

"I think when people say that and write that, they're basically saying, ‘Hey, it's too bad. You people with epilepsy, don't shoot for your dreams, don't push and try and have goals because it makes me uncomfortable to see when something happens."

That is 100% true.  And what else do the Jim Souhans of the world say?  "People shouldn't have to see that."  Then don't attend games.  Vote with your feet.  If no one attends a Gophers game because they have an epileptic coach, then he will be forced out and you will have your wish.  "Other Big Ten teams use Kill's illness against the Gophers."  What people generally use against the Gophers in recruiting is that they haven't been to the Rose Bowl since John F. Kennedy was elected.  Jim Wacker and Tim Brewster, by all accounts, were healthy men.  Recruits should have been flocking to the Twin Cities.  But they weren't.  Do you really think Kill's opponents say, "Geez, they have a fucking epileptic as a coach, don't go there!"  You think that message would sell real well?  What they COULD say is, "Kill has health problems, Jim Souhan has real problems with that, so they may have to force him out...."

If Kill's illness is a recruiting problem (no evidence that it is), then wouldn't one way to reduce the problem be for the University to say, "Look, we stand behind the guy.  He is our coach, and we think he does a great job.  His assistants love him and his players support him."  Instead, the great Souhan suggests that the University force him out.  Well that will be a great boost for recruiting - "Hey, you better not have health problems when you come here. We don't like having sick folks around - they get forced out."

Let me even be so bold as to suggest this -- supporting Jerry Kill through his illness may actually IMPROVE Minnesota's standing in the world of football and HELP recruiting.  How much national attention has Minnesota received in football in the past 50 years?  The big Michigan game (loss) during Mason's tenure and the one year Lou Holtz coached.  Otherwise, virtually no attention.  You know who commented on Jim Souhan's column yesterday on Twitter?  David Axelrod - Obama's chief campaign startegist.  He called the column "ignorant" and said that the key is working to cure epilepsy.  Perhaps the administration at Minnesota, by just acting as caring human beings and honoring federal law, can use this as a platform to something greater -- maybe put some money into epilepsy research?  Have epilepsy foundation fundraisers. You know, try to help people.  Wouldn't it be nice to say 20 years from now, "When Coach Kill had his issues, we put an emphasis on epilepsy research, and now we help an extra 15% of people avoid seizures." 

Anyway, that is really all I have to say.  Oh, and fuck you, Jim Souhan.


Anonymous said...

This is a BRILLIANT analysis of this situation! I have cancelled my Star and Tribune subscription to protest my disgust of both Souhan and Reusse and their constant hatred of all things Gophers - even though they haven't spoken to a single coach, the AD or the athletes. Thank you for this excellent blog post!

HM said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Very well stated. I don't read souhan very often, but this dust up caught my eye and you've made all the pertinent points to show he's a pompous ass, whose values are ass backward. As someone who deals with epilepsy in the real world, you humanized the disease. It's a sad day when a gopher player - a kid - is more than someone who gets paid to opine because they're so smart. Thanks for writing - and Fuck YOU jim souhan.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for also being a voice for my 3 year old grandson who was diagnosed this spring with epilepsy. I pray that his life will bring him into contact with people with understanding not judgement. I can hardly believe that anyone could possibly write and then other see fit to publish such trash! Shame on you Mr Souhan, shame on you Star and Trib!

HM said...

Second anonymous - thank you.

Third anonymous - I do not know what your grandchild's doctors have said, but in some instances having seizures at an early age actually means that there is a greater chance that they may go away as the child gets older. Young bodies just seem to find some way to adapt. My daughter was diagnosed at age 14 - not such a great prognosis, although Depacote has kept her seizure free since my birthday (almost 6 months). Knock on wood.

HM said...