Laugh, thumb your nose at him, and have your fun while fun is to be had at Jim Harbaugh’s expense. But remember, if you don’t have a passion for winning you’re branded forever as something worse than a whiner.
Columbus, Dec. 3, 2016 – A week after the fact, I’m tired of the Jim Harbaugh jokes.
I’m tired of forgetful Buckeyes, who never played a down in their life…or even skinned a knuckle…chastising the coach of the Michigan Wolverines because he had the temerity to challenge an official’s call during Saturday’s double-overtime loss to Ohio State…to throw a headset.
If you’re one of them…you have a short memory!
“There’s just no excuse for a coach to act the way he did on the sidelines – and whine about the referees,” a family member told me this week, perhaps a bit too puffed up. “That’s the difference between Ohio State and Michigan.”
“Do you remember Woody Hayes?” I asked. “And have you seen the photos of Woody ripping a yard marker away from the chain gang in Michigan one year and breaking it over his knee, to protest a call? You’re talking about that Woody Hayes, aren’t you?”
She fell silent for a moment.
“Well at least Woody was a good role model for his players. Look at the ones who talk about him now and tell how me made all the difference in their lives,” she blubbered.
“And Jim Harbaugh will have players say the same for him one day,” I assured. “Because he had a passion for winning, which he passed on to them, which ultimately makes all the difference in their lives. That’s what coaches do.”
And lest any of the nose-thumbers out there make too much of their condemnation of Harbaugh – with their laughter over winning one more over the hated team up north, remember: What goes around comes around. It won’t be long before the worm turns and Michigan rips off five or six wins in a row. And then there’ll be a great moan heard from Toledo to Ironton. Such are people, and their perspectives about winning. Remember John Cooper?
If winning is important to you…believe it or not…Jim Harbaugh (or any other coach) is doing you a favor when he demonstrates that winning matters – when he displays a defense of his team’s efforts on the field.
I don’t know if J.T. Barrett got that first down or not. And pass interference is a judgment call, as well. It’s why they pay attorneys and school principals to work college football games and administer their best judgments. They’re not professional officials, nor any better or worse than the ones that are. But it’s always been a part of competition at high levels for coaches to challenge calls, stomp, throw headsets, and in Woody’s ultimate case, slug an opposing linebacker when he disagreed with the flow of things.
It’s called gamesmanship in most cases. And yes, passion can go too far. We see it and we recognize it. And thank you, Woody, for reminding us of where that line is crossed. And funny, isn’t it…twenty years after he died, how we still talk about Woody Hayes with such reverence?
But I grew up during the era of fiery coaches and baseball managers. I observed Leo Durocher first-hand. I saw the video of Bobby Knight throwing the chair. I actually learned from watching Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale…about how to pitch inside and intimidate opposing hitters – a passion to compete.
And in my youngest example, I remember going to Marshall University basketball games and seeing Coach Jules Rivlin. Rivlin was a little short guy with a hot temper who was notorious for ripping off his suit coat and throwing it up in the crowd – for kicking chairs and throwing clipboards. It was fun and something we all laughed about later. But it didn’t scar me for life.
I didn’t grow up acting like Rivlin, or Bobby Knight, or Woody Hayes when I didn’t get my way. No, I grew up within my own personality appreciating importance of competition and a passion to be successful.
We’re all hypocrites about this, you know. We revel in winning while pointing fingers at the way others lose. We’re quick to call it poor sportsmanship. We even tell our kids now that the outcome of the game doesn’t matter. No, what’s important is to play the game without offending.
But you tell me. You think that would have satisfied the 110,045 that left Ohio Stadium last week…had the score been 30-27 in favor of Michigan?
And if Urban Meyer had thrown a headset, and won, would it have mattered?
Trust it, winning does matter. And it matters to Meyer and Harbaugh for far more important reasons than it matters to you and me. Because that’s what they’re paid to teach YOUR kids when they go there to play, whether you like it or not. They learn to be winners for life. No PlayStation – no trophies for participation – no Kum Ba Yah.
Believe it. If you’re ever that lucky…Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh have done you and your kid a favor. And he’s going to talk about it for the rest of his life.
As he should!