Will the real Jim Harbaugh please stand up?


Remember why Quinn Nordin is kicking for Michigan football and not for Penn State?  Remember who plans slumber parties with prospective recruits?  Remember who presented the Pope with a Michigan football helmet?  Well, to be more precise, who presented the Pope with a Michigan helmet and a pair of maize and blue shoes?

 Remember who told his team not to eat chicken, a “nervous bird”?  Remember which Division I football coach wore number four as first base coach for the Detroit Tigers?  Remember which coach put together a rap video?  Remember which coach was the correct answer to a question on the Simpsons – “a sports genius that everyone hates.”  For that matter, remember which coach has a fan crush on Judge Judy.

Let’s also remember which coach was blasted for establishing “satellite camps”, 10 camps in seven states, then remember the coach who walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama when bringing a camp to Alabama.  Maybe remember who stood on Omaha Beach with his team as Taps was played in honor of the 9000 American soldiers who gave their lives there on D-Day.

The truth is that last season was tough, tough on the team, tough on the coaches, and tough on fans.  Losses to Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, an 8-5 season and 4th place in the division hurt, watching a stalled offense hurt, watching quarterbacks flounder hurt.

There were some obvious obstacles to success last year, and hopes at the start of the season were probably unrealistic, but all bets are off when it comes to Jim Harbaugh and Michigan football.  In a landscape of taskmasters and oily self-promoters, Jim Harbaugh is both a character and a man of character.

He has strong feelings.  “I drink a lot of milk … A lot of milk.  Whole milk though.  Not the candy-ass two-percent or skim milk.”  “The football gods have provided us with heat and sun to shape the body and carve the mind.”  “My default is ‘yes’ when asked to do things.”  And, perhaps the most striking, in describing his attitude toward coaching, “I’m as happy as a pig in slop.”  He wore a Colin Kaepernick jersey at Michigan’s Sacramento camp and in an interview with Sports Illustrated observed, “For Colin, and what Colin’s doing and has been doing, when you really stop and listen and know where Colin is coming from…he’s trying to do this for his future kids, for my kids, for all of our kids. He’s a special person and a hero, in my opinion.”

A column by Bill Gordon, Ph.D., in Psychology Today examined America’s infatuation with Jim Harbaugh.  Gordon considered all of the qualities already mentioned, but took the question of Harbaugh’s popularity to those who know him best.:

“…  his many humanitarian deeds add yet another level of subconscious appeal.  I asked several top Michigan related Internet social media groups, such as Michigan Football HQ, The University of Michigan M Club, Michigan Proud and True, and Big Ten Talk why they liked Jim Harbaugh. U of M alumnus, Bruce Laing, encapsulates the majority opinion: He will instill toughness and accountability in the athletes, posted Laing in the University of Michigan M Club.  Our children’s futures are vital, so we embrace the importance of education, accountability and toughness because they galvanize that future; yet  another reason America is instinctually drawn to Harbaugh.”

Michigan has an extraordinary coach, a coach with rare ability to motivate, inspire, and teach.  We need all that only Harbaugh can offer. The team faces what may be the toughest schedule in college football, and there are still questions about the offensive line, running backs, receivers, and starting quarterback.  The opening game against Notre Dame is plenty daunting enough, and there will be moments of consternation on the sideline.

And that is when fans want the real Jim Harbaugh to stand up.  Yes, measured rationality is a good quality to present during a battle, but the team and its fans need a little wild man, a little Henry V, a little “we band of brothers,” some hopping on one foot, slapping of helmets, screaming at refs, tossing of clipboards.

We want to see the competitive genius of Jim Harbaugh at a fever pitch.  We want a Jim Harbaugh who is over the top and almost too much.  Just take off the headphones, Jim, and kick something.

We believe in Jim Harbaugh and only want to see him do what he can do best.  After all, when it comes to looking at leadership at the top of the Michigan football program, “Who’s Got It Better Than Us?”

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