In college football, the head coach runs the show. And no head coach runs a show like Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
The quirky, intense, and ultimately effective boss of the Wolverines program gets the bulk of the air time in Amazon’s newest offering in the All or Nothing series. He produces all of the intriguing sound bites. (Jim’s brother, John, and father, Jack, provide memorable moments when addressing the team; Jack’s speech to the players the night before their bowl game against South Carolina was good enough to make me think he should be coaching in the NFL, right now.)
John still does, and it feels like Jim one day will return. For now, he’s the man at his alma mater, and also the man of a house that features a flock of school-age kids, and younger.
The clip that has generated the most attention since the show debuted on Friday has Harbaugh’s daughter getting an infected ear piercing inspected by team trainers.
“It may hurt a little bit,” Harbaugh tells her. “You’ve got to suck it up, Katie.”
Harbaugh’s wife, Sarah, didn’t appreciate that one.
“Jim, she’s six years old,” Sarah says. “You think he’s a 22-year-old player.”
In another episode from the eight-part series, Jim shares a domestic example when talking to his players about the importance of holding onto the football.
“Anybody who’s got the ball. Squeeze it!” Harbaugh says. “This week, got home about 11:00. Sarah was still up, baby monitor goes off. Baby John’s up there crying, up in his room. ‘Hey Sarah, I’ll get this. Let me get this.’ Get up, get to John’s room. Could smell it right when I get in there, you know? Pooped his pants.
“Once I picked him up, I knew what I had to do. I had to take him down some steep stairs to get to that changing table. And I had to start thinking, ‘What is the worst possible thing that could happen that there’s no recovering from?’ If I fall down those stairs with the baby in my arms. I mean, it’s over for him. And I’m wearing these sweat pants, I’ve got those gray sweat pants. Pulled those things up, this could happen. You could step on that sweat pant as you’re going down the stairs and it’s over. I’m squeezing him. I’ve got him right there. And I’ve got my other hand on the rail as I’m going down those stairs. I’m not squeezing him like I would a football. You can’t squeeze a baby like — you can’t squeeze into a baby like that. But I got him. Once I got to the bottom of those stairs, I’m thinking about the toys. Kids could have left the toys on the ground, could be something to step on. And that baby’s not coming out, is the point. And when you got the ball in your hand, there is no other job. There is no other job more important than that ball in the hand.”
Harbaugh never explains why the changing table isn’t in the baby’s room. Then again, the point wouldn’t have been as potent if steep stairs and saggy sweat pants weren’t involved.
Before a game at Purdue, Jim Harbaugh provides a fairly graphic mandate to his players.
“Be like a hit man, be like an assassin out there tomorrow,” Harbaugh says. “Be like a vampire bat. Let’s just go suck the blood right out of these people from start to finish.”
From start to finish, the All or Nothing series isn’t quite as compelling as its NFL counterpart. And it would have been a lot less interesting but for the involvement of Jim Harbaugh.