49ers Blog and Q&A

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June 24, 2013
Fact: People have wanted to punch Jim Harbaugh for nearly five decades


So, you want to pop Jim Harbaugh in the nose or wring his neck or otherwise lay him out?

Take a number, honey. There's a line. That goes around the block.

Maybe all this animus toward a head coach is new to the NFL, but it's yawns-ville to Harbaugh. People have been wanting to punch him for a long, long time. After all, a young Jim Harbaugh once plunked a little girl between the shoulder blades - hey, she was crowding the plate! -- drawing hisses and boos from the parents in the stands.

"He would alienate the other kids, so I was really the only friend he had," his brother, John, said in 2011. "We joke that dad's profession was the perfect profession for Jim, because after two years, he'd be like, `It's time to move, dad. I've lost all my friends.' We were in Iowa one time and dad felt bad because we were leaving for Michigan. He tried to break it to us, and Jim goes, `Just in time, dad. I just ran out of my last friend.'"

CSN Bay Area's Dave Feldman, a high school basketball teammate of Harbaugh's at Palo Alto High, tells a story about a Santa Clara High team that became particularly rattled by Harbaugh during a game in 1982. When a fight broke out, not only did the opposing players go after Jim, the fans spilled out of the stands to take a swing at him, too.

The latest person to join the line is Seahawks receiver Golden Tate, who on Friday told a Seattle radio station he'd give Harbaugh "the Sean Lee treatment" if Harbaugh ever were on the field. Tate, you see, leveled an unsuspecting Lee, a Cowboys linebacker, in a game last year, a hit which drew a $21,000 fine from the league. He was responding to Harbaugh's well-publicized comments from earlier this month about the rash of PED suspensions in Seattle.

Tate's words followed those of Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner, who said recently he wanted to put his hands around Harbaugh's neck. Which followed a report that Harbaugh mockingly saluted the Seahawks team bus following a game at Candlestick Park (denied by Harbaugh; "a fabrication," he said), which followed a spat between Harbaugh and Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, which followed an overly exuberant handshake with Lions coach Jim Schwartz, which ...

If you went back far enough, there probably was a newborn who wanted to clock Harbaugh in the nursery. In fact, a source tells me a doctor slapped Harbaugh mere moments after he was delivered.

You see, Harbaugh has a talent for getting under the skin. In that, he's a true artiste. That skill proved beneficial when, after joining underdog Stanford, he said the Cardinal "bow to no program," specifically mighty USC. The brash attitude was a shot of confidence to, and served as a galvanizing force for, a Stanford squad that had been trounced by the Trojans in preceding years. It also was the first in a series of nettles sent by Harbaugh to then-USC coach Pete Carroll.

Harbaugh, however, no longer is an underdog. The 49ers, in fact, are bound to be heavy favorites to return to the Super Bowl when pundits start prognosticating the season in coming months. Teams already will be gunning for them. And you have to wonder if all that animus toward Harbaugh will work against the 49ers, if it will serve as an extra galvanizing force for their opponents.

After all, a few days after the back-and-forth with Gilbride, the Giants came to Candlestick and beat the 49ers 26-3. In the rematch following the alleged drive-by saluting, the Seahawks won 42-13, the 49ers' worst defeat of the Harbaugh era.

He'd better hope that girl he plunked doesn't want revenge, too.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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