Tuesday’s new episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel includes a look not only at Seattle’s quarterback but also at the former San Francisco head coach who no longer has to deal with Russell Wilson. Andrea Kremer profiles new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who has returned to Ann Arbor decades after he once patrolled the sidelines as a boy — and actually once ran into the end zone to celebrate a touchdown.
Kremer looks at Jim Harbaugh’s legendary intensity and competitiveness, which he admits has undermined plenty of relationships.
“You didn’t always play well with others, necessarily,” Kremer says to Harbaugh.
“Yeah, people say that,” Harbaugh responds.
“Well, what do you say?” Kremer asks.
“It must be true, yeah,” Harbaugh replies. “Sometimes I’d wear out my welcome.”
“What does that mean you wear out your welcome?”
“They just don’t want to be around you after a while,” Harbaugh admits.
It happened not only when Jim Harbaugh was a youth, but also as an adult. And that may have contributed to his departure from the 49ers.
“He does a great job of giving you that spark, that initial boom,” 49ers guard Alex Boone tells Kremer. “But after a while, you just want to kick his ass. . . . He just keeps pushing you, and you’re like, ‘Dude, we got over the mountain. Stop. Let go.’ He kind of wore out his welcome.”
“What does that mean?” Kremer asks.
“I think he just pushed guys too far. He wanted too much, demanded too much, expected too much. You know, ‘We gotta go out and do this. We gotta go out and do this. We gotta go out and do this.’ And you’d be like, ‘This guy might be clinically insane. He’s crazy.’ . . . I think that if you’re stuck in your ways enough, eventually people are just going to say, ‘Listen, we just can’t work with this.'”
Boone also said something that shed’s light on the perspective of the locker room. “The players had nothing to do with him getting fired,” Boone says, which suggests that the players aren’t buying the whole “mutual parting” thing.
Brother John Harbaugh, the Ravens head coach who beat Jim’s 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, recalls a strong obsession with winning when they were youths.
“He always wanted to win everything, and if he wasn’t winning — and the few times in our history growing up when I was bigger or better — it really ticked him off,” John Harbaugh said. “We have some pictures where you can see the look on his face in the picture. . . . He’s just mad that he’s shorter or he’s smaller or that he lost a basketball game or he lost a card game. He would carry it around with him for a while.”
Jim Harbaugh even competed with genetics. Obsessed with getting to six-feet, two inches, Harbaugh found a magic elixir for growth.
“I heard that if you drink milk that builds strong bones, and convinced myself that I’ll drink as much milk as I possibly can drink,” him Harbaugh said.
So as a third grader, Jim Harbaugh said he got a job at his elementary school distributing milk to the students. The pay was a free milk every day, plus the ability to drink the milk of the kids who weren’t there or who didn’t want their milk.
“I drank a lot of milk, Andrea,” he says. “A lot of milk. Whole milk, though. Not the candy ass two-percent or skim milk.”
It worked. He made it not to six-two, but to six-feet, three inches.
The competition with anyone and with anything continues. The press copy of the HBO profile has video and audio of Harbaugh shouting generally at Michigan players in spring practice to “huddle the f–k up” and telling one specific player, “I’m just telling you the right way to do it. If you want to look at me with that look, go f–king someplace else.”
“Go f–king someplace else” is what the 49ers essentially told Harbaugh in December. Moving forward, the question becomes whether he’ll hear that phrase or something similar to it from the folks running the show in Ann Arbor.