I like eccentric people. Generally the greatest advancements in art, science, and society come from the creativity and outside-the-box thinking of the weirdos amongst us. Even on a micro scale, more often than not, the most enjoyable people to conversate and spend time with are the ones who are just ever so slightly off their rockers.
But then there’s the coach of the Michigan Wolverines football team, James Joseph Harbaugh; he’s a completely different brand of bonkers. He’s cranky and combative and is constantly in search of two things: either a fight, or an opportunity to flaunt his idiosyncrasies, often just for flaunting’s sake.
Those aren’t opinions, they are facts. And I doubt that even the most ardent of Michigan Men would deny that Harbaugh is more than a little bit on the odd side of life; and those of us that don’t have yellow and blue running through our veins would probably be inclined to use even more colorful language than that. But is that weirdness necessarily bad? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Let’s discuss. In addition to his well-documented obsession with milk, eating a booger on national TV, hatred of chickens, slumber parties with recruits, jumping off high dives fully clothed, dedication to khakis, Usher-inspired dance moves, climbing trees to impress high schoolers, and rocking the palest dad bod in history, there have been a few stories in recent weeks about how Jimmy’s eccentricities could be hurting his team on the field; good for the Buckeyes, bad for TTUN.
First, he lost out on five-star (and eventual first-round draft pick) offensive lineman Isaiah Wilson because he refused to take his cleats off when visiting Wilson’s house. First off, why the hell was he wearing cleats in the first place? He was on a recruiting visit, not playing (or even coaching) a game.
It’s like his need to bring a glove with him to every baseball game he ever attends; does he feel like he always needs to be prepared just incase a game breaks out somewhere on his travels and a frantic coach might spot him in the distance and say, “Sonny boy. Yeah you, the one who’s already wearing cleats. We need another player so that the hometown team can win the championship and raise enough money to save our beloved, but dilapidated ball field from the evil real estate developer. You must be one heck of an athlete if you’re already wearing cleats for no discernible reason. Do you want to play with us? If we we win, I’ll take you out for a tall, cold, refreshing glass of milk.”
Grow up, Jim. You have less than zero reasons to wear cleats anywhere off of a football field, and even then it’s a little sus.
Secondly, with all due respect to his mother Jackie Harbaugh, why does he think that wearing cleats indoors is acceptable? I can’t tell you how many times that my mom yelled at me and my siblings after coming home from games, “No cleats in the house!”
And keep in mind, it wasn’t even his house. Have some respect for the people inviting you into their home, Jimmy.
Then this week, we had the whole fiasco with the confrontation on a Big Ten coaches conference call between him and Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day, which reportedly led to Day telling his team that the B1G better have a mercy rule in place because the Bucks are going to “hang 100 on them.”
According to the original reporting by Bucknuts’ Dave Biddle, the incident started when Harbaugh interrupted Day on the call and accused former TTUN assistant and current OSU linebackers coach Al Washington of working with players before it was permitted by the NCAA. Jimmy allegedly came to this conclusion based on a photo shared on OSU’s social media platforms.
Now, I don’t know what image he is talking about, and I don’t know enough about what was and wasn’t allowed in the NCAA’s two-week pre-camp window, but if Washington was violating the rules, then I have no issue with Harbaugh bringing it up to the Big Ten compliance department. While I doubt that it gave any competitive advantage to the Buckeyes, rules need to be followed and enforced. So, no issue there for me. In fact, if he had evidence that his rival was committing NCAA infractions, he would be doing his team a disservice not to report them to the proper authorities.
But, how he (allegedly) instead chose to bring the accusation up feeds the narrative that Harbaugh is a little bit unhinged and lacks any semblance of interpersonal skills, especially when it comes to his coaching peers and colleagues. And let’s not forget about how he was basically fired by the San Francisco 49ers — despite impressive success — because nobody liked working with him.
This week’s interaction with Day also plays into Harbaugh and Michigan Man’s worst tin-foil hat tendencies. It’s like clockwork, after every edition of The Game, the MGoBlog message boards erupt with all kinds of emotions and excuses for why their team lost to the Buckeyes yet again. From disdain for Harbaugh to resignation that OSU has essentially lapped the rest of the B1G to conspiracy theories about how Ohio State is only better than TTUN because they cheat, it’s all there on full display once a year, usually on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.
Last year, they even latched onto the fact that Justin Fields, a transfer student who came to Columbus after a semester had already started, took mostly online classes. If you ask me, that just shows what a leader Fields is in his preparations for college in the time of COVID.
Now, we, the black sheep of the Ohio State blogosphere, have built our brand on being petty; somehow, it kind of works for us. But it is not a good look for a leader of men. Is Jim’s behavior really the type of thing that you’d want to send your son to play under for three to five years?
But, I will give credit where it is due, I do think that Harbaugh has gotten some things right over his years in Ann Arbor. I thought that his attempts to host satellite camps in talent-rich parts of the country were actually pretty brilliant, and I applaud his willingness to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk when it comes to supporting Black Lives Matter.
So, if you’ve gotten this far in this column, you either are loving what I wrote and think that I didn’t go far enough, or you are rage-reading and think that I am just another arrogant Ohio State fan. Both might be true, but here’s the thing: I don’t want to see Jim Harbaugh leave Michigan.
Sure, there’s the fact that he’s 0-5 against the Buckeyes in his tenure at his alma mater and hasn’t gotten past third place in the Big Ten East; and that’s all incredibly gratifying to me as someone who’s formative years came during the John Cooper era. But, the real reason that I want him to stay is just that I find his entire schtick to be hilarious. He is just so strange that his whole being becomes entertaining. Jim Harbaugh is the perfect foil and target for meme culture. Hell, Jim Harbaugh is a walking meme.
I mean, we’ve known that he was wackadoo ever since it was revealed that he was Screech Powers’ cousin on an episode of “Saved by the Bell: The New Class;” that really explains a lot, doesn’t it?
But the point remains, Jim Harbaugh is unusually unusual, especially when it comes to the normally buttoned up profession of college football coaching. And while his antics can certainly wear thin — for both fans and foes alike — you cannot argue that they aren’t interesting. I mean, in a world in which coaches are openly stanning for deranged propaganda outlets or actively fighting to prevent players from organizing for economic or racial justice, isn’t it nice to have a coach that we can talk about who’s worst off field offense is just that he’s weird? It’s 2020, bring on the weird.
From the first official day of preseason camp until whenever Ohio State’s football season ends, I will be posting a column every single day. Some days they will be longer and in depth, some days they will be short and sweet. Let me know what you think of this one, and what you’d like to see me discuss in the comments or on Twitter. Go Bucks!