All of sports is showmanship to one degree or another. The Icky Shuffle. Calling your shot. Floor slaps. Lance Stephenson blowing gently on Lebron/Jameis Winston. Our era of athletes-as-celebrities-as-athletes demands that each victory comes with a heaping side dish of dramatic flair. The question is therefore one of extent. How much is too much? When does a man cross the line from character to caricature?
Enter Jim Harbaugh.
The guy is a clown. His shoes should be size 23 and have heels that quack when he walks. He should arrive to every UM event in a 1972 Beetle spewing bubbles from the tailpipe, sharing said conveyance with a dozen other sots of ilk. He's a joke, and not the kind you tell your boss's wife at the Christmas party.
I'm not saying he's a bad coach. He's probably a great coach. If he can steer Michigan out of the doldrums in the way he did for Stanford, Harbaugh will almost certainly be cemented in the pantheon of top tier coaches. The guy knows football.
What he doesn't know is how to shut the hell up.
This week's tiff with OSU AD Gene Smith--in which Harbaugh dug into the past to bring up the Tattoo-Gate scandal that cost Jim Tressell his job--is just the latest example of the Khaki Cowboy waxing angrily juvenile. A few weeks back, the same scenario played out with Butch Jones. It turns out that the one thing he definitely does with enthusiasm unknown to mankind is twitter trolling.
Bringing up past transgressions is a bold move for a man with a DUI arrest to his name.
All that is to say nothing of his childish sideline buffoonery. Lord Jim spews vitriol and spittle ay anyone within earshot. He launches clipboards and headsets with abandon when he doesn't get his way. The kicker is that when you look at the calls he's mad about, nine times out of ten he's dead wrong anyway.
The problem with his antics is that while they serve to raise his profile, they serve to lower the level of class for which Michigan and the broader Big Ten have long been known. Our dear old dame of a league has a reputation with a bit more gloss to it than say, the SEC. Now we've got this Harbaugh character doing his best to carry the battle standard of Steve Spurrier into the great, polite North.
Now, I hate Michigan. Always have, always will. That said, they've had some damn respectable coaches over the years. Bo and Lloyd leap to mind. The Michigan Man may have become a trope ripe for ridicule around the B1G, but facts are facts. You can loathe that urine-and-blue institution and still doff your cap to the head Wolverine out of begrudging respect.
Jim Harbaugh, on the other hand, is just about the worst ambassador the Michigan faithful could hope for. He's bad for the school, bad for the B1G, and bad for the values that college football claims to stand for. Nothing about the guy lives up to the standard of the University of Michigan. He may have a Michigan degree, but he isn't a Michigan man. He's your creepy Uncle who "accidentally" spills wine on your girlfriend's white sweater and offers her a t-shirt to wear instead.
Thankfully, he'll be back in the pros before the decade is out. Until they get sick of him, too.