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And Another Thing

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Heart-stopping

Mark Dantonio is a lucky man today.

No, not just because his Michigan State Spartans pulled off an audacious gamble in overtime, faking a field goal and throwing a touchdown pass to beat Notre Dame 34-31.

Dantonio is a lucky man because apparently the outcome was a bit too much of a thriller. The Spartans head coach suffered a heart attack late Saturday night after the MSU win.

Thankfully, he's resting comfortably today and is expected to make a full recovery. But when I heard the news, I immediately flashed back to a similar circumstance that had a far more tragic ending.

Not many people who weren't around Anderson in the late 1970s and early 1980s remember the name of Bob Fuller, but he was one heck of a basketball coach. His Anderson Highland teams of that era were known for their intensity and discipline, particularly in executing the zone defense for which Fuller was justly regarded as something of a genius. To watch the way his teams played that zone -- every movement choreographed perfectly, no wasted motion anywhere -- was a treat.

They were, surely, a reflection of their coach, a man whose intensity and single-minded focus sometimes veered into outright paranoia. I can still remember how he used to cover the doors to the gym with paper so no one could watch his teams practice, and how little he gave away in preview stories -- ironic, because everyone in the Midwest knew exactly what his teams were going to do every Friday night.

The only time he surprised us, sad to say, was the night in 1980 when he suffered a massive heart attack in the locker room at halftime of a game. Within minutes he was gone, at the age of 40.

Dantonio was much luckier. And, hopefully, much wiser now, too.

Ben Smith's blog.

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