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Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Heart of Armor, Continued

Hi All.  I'm watching the NFC Divisional Playoffs between the San Francisco 49ers and the Carolina Panthers.  Just saw the Niners have a ruling in the field overturned in their favor right at the end of the first half, because both of the receiver's feet actually WERE in bounds when he caught that ball.

Jim Harbaugh, the Niners' coach, gets a lot of attention because of his priceless reactions to just about everything that happens on the field.  The grimaces.  The gestures.  The histrionics.  The facial expressions that could most definitely improve his chances of landing his own show on ESPN should he ever tire of coaching.  I mean, you expect this type of behavior from college basketball coaches, but not every NFL coach does this.  That being said, he's only coached at this level for three seasons, and his winning record speaks for itself.

But what people should know about "Harbs" besides what a character he is, is that he actually also had a great deal of emotional maturity, and knew how to use it when it counted.  Don't believe me?  Go back to 1992.

Back then, he was a quarterback for none other than Mike Ditka with the Chicago Bears.  Now that was one coach that nobody could mess around with.  But as luck would have it, Harbaugh found himself in a little trouble with that coach.

The Bears were at Minnesota, and they had a 20-0 lead over the Vikings.  Ditka had told Harbaugh that he did not want him to call any audibles, and that only the coach would call the plays.  Well, Harbs felt a little extra confident with that 20-0 lead, so he went ahead and called an audible anyway.

For those of you who are not football fans, you don't have to know what an audible is.  You only have to know that, as the name implies, someone needs to hear it.  Well, the intended receiver didn't.

As a result, that receiver was not in position, and that pass got intercepted.  This was bad.  After the turnover was completed, Ditka proceeded to tear Harbaugh a new one, throwing a complete temper tantrum on the sidelines.  To add insult to injury, this exchange was on the jumbo-tron for all of the Minnesota fans to have their schadenfreude fix.

As a result of that interception, Minnesota came from behind to beat Chicago.  In his post-game interview, Ditka made it clear that he blamed Harbs for losing the whole game, and that if any player thought he was "smarter than the coach" again, he would cut him.

Under these most unfavorable situations, Harbs handled it like a champion and a gentleman.  He did not react in kind to the coach's tirade on the sidelines, but he also didn't crumble when confronted.  During his own post-game interview, he admitted that what he attempted did not work, and that "it's Mike's team, he can do whatever he wants."  He also stayed with the team through the 1993 season, went onto greater success with Indianapolis, and the rest is history.

I've recently posted about how, out of respect, you can't ignore warnings when consequences may result.  I've also posted in the past about how there are times you need to defend yourself, but if you do it at the wrong time to the wrong person, you may be stuck with those consequences.  This example from more than two decades ago demonstrates why.

Harbs may not have reached the Super Bowl during his playing career, but he handled this moment like an MVP.  He made a costly mistake, and paid a heavy price for it, but he owned up to it.  He did not blame the receiver who didn't hear the audible.  He did not malign or slander the coach.  He also did not threaten to quit and go to some other team where he'd be better understood.  He handled the situation with dignity and respect, and that says a lot more about his character than how he handled his victories.  And quite honestly, I also think it gives him a pass for that wild-man demeanor on the sidelines he now exhibits.

This is why we need to have our hearts encased on armor.  In his own way, Harbs had exactly that.  His ego was not bruised, his playing did not suffer, and he went on to bigger and better things.  That's a much more responsible way to react when mistakes are made than to automatically become defensive.

It would be nice if people in general were more forgiving and tolerant of mistakes being made.  Sometimes they are, and sometimes they're not.  But we can choose how to react to this, like Harbs did, and not let it harm us.  Let's follow his example, gentlemen.