Anatomy of a burnout

PAUL FRIESEN, SPORTS COLUMNIST

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

They all live similar lives, riding the bull that is pro football, hanging on while the thing snorts and heaves beneath them.

So when fellow CFL GMs got wind this week that one of their colleagues, Winnipeg's Brendan Taman, was thrown off and didn't get back on, it was more than just another move on the transaction wire.

"I got a text from somebody and it said that he had resigned," Toronto Argonauts GM Adam Rita told the Sun. "And I went, 'Oh, bull----.' "

Rita, whom Taman calls his closest friend in the CFL, had no inkling his buddy was at the end of his rope.

"I was kind of shocked," Rita said. "That can happen. That's why you need to get away sometimes."

Taman's unique departure -- while most coaches and GMs are turfed, he was simply trampled by fatigue -- has his counterparts examining their own lives and careers, and what they see isn't always pretty.

"Look at him," Rita said, referring to the weight Taman had gained the last few years. "I don't think Brendan did anything else. He doesn't have a hobby other than football, and sometimes that gets dangerous.

"I try to work out. And I try to turn my phone off after 10 p.m., or 9:30. It's endless."

He also tries to take time off.

"When I went away I took a few days off, and (turned) my phone off," Rita said. "You've got to give yourself that break."

Taman was known to be accessible anytime, anywhere, even reading e-mails while on a cruise ship. His thinking: you never know when an agent will call, offering a player you could use.

His vacations usually consisted of a weekend in Las Vegas, BlackBerry in hand.

More often than not he remained in Winnipeg, where he couldn't get away from the calls or the constant, public attention.

"The emotional strain, the every day exposure that people like Brendan go through, a lot of people just don't realize the toll it takes," B.C. Lions head coach/GM Wally Buono said. "It used to be where everybody said you lived in a glass house. Now we don't live in a house at all. Today with the Internet, with talk radio, nothing is sacred, nothing is valued, nothing is held back."

How does Buono get away from it?

"I go to Hawaii for a month," he said. "Do I want to do this for another 10, 15 years? No. The demands are very, very, very high."

In Calgary, filling a similar role to Taman's is Jim Barker, a career coach who's evolved into a personnel guru.

Barker was saddened to see Taman call it quits.

"He's one of the good guys," Barker said. "He spent his life dedicated to this. I was very surprised."

But understanding, just the same.

"I don't think a lot of people really understand," Barker said. "Even when you coach, you're off for a couple of months. In this job, you're never off. I can see that could happen."

Asked how he prevents it from happening, Barker didn't really have an answer.

"This is only my fourth year," he said. "I can understand how, over a long haul, it can get tedious. Christmas Eve -- there's no day that's sacred. And the quest for players. You just never know where you have to go to find guys.

"It's just a constant striving to get better. That can drain you."

Scouting college bowl games and NFL camps, scouring hundreds of game tapes and spending half your hours on the phone -- Taman did it for 10 years in Winnipeg, where the resources are limited, the spotlight intense.

In an office in Regina, Eric Tillman could feel his pain.

"The stress can be enormous," the Saskatchewan GM said. "And it impacts you in many ways and manifests in many ways. It's really a grind."

Tillman hopes we haven't seen the last of Taman.

"He's a good cowboy. There will be other rodeos for him."

Only if he chooses to get back on the beast that bucked him off.

And it's relentless.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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