Harbaugh Weekly: Say it ain't so, Jim. . . No ifs, ands or rants.

Bitterly disappointed.

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That’s a phrase we’ve heard often this fall—from protesters taking to the streets to. . . Jim Harbaugh’s officiating rant.

We should all be disappointed in the Michigan coach for taking the focus off of a game that will be long remembered as a classic in what might be the best rivalry in sports.

Ohio State-Michigan.

We should be celebrating the revival of a great rivalry. And that’s not easy to say when one team (Ohio State) has won 12 of the last 13 meetings.

But that appears to be the case. If Michigan could come oh-so-close, losing 30-27 in overtime in Harbaugh’s second season, despite playing a quarterback who had missed the previous game with a collarbone injury, the Wolverines will have their turn(s) soon. A case could be made that Michigan outplayed the Buckeyes, which partially explains—but does not justify—Harbaugh’s petulance.

We should be anticipating another golden era, the promise of Bo-and-Woody-like clashes between Harbaugh and Urban Meyer, who were born in the same Toledo hospital. Ten Years War? This could go on far longer than that.

Instead, we’re stuck with deploring Harbaugh’s complaints about officiating.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Quick aside. . . some NFL-types are speculating that Harbaugh, who has never stayed in one job longer than four years, will return to the NFL after four years in Ann Arbor. I do not buy that. At all.

I believe Harbaugh has found his true home. He bleeds maize-and-blue. He grew up with it. And a college coach can rule his world in a way that a pro coach never can.

Even if there was indisputable evidence that the officials had missed the first-down call that enabled the Buckeyes to score the winning touchdown on the next play—and there was no such evidence—Harbaugh’s reactions crossed a line.

What is the deal, America?

Every time things don’t go our way, we shout about the system being rigged?

Is this what we want to teach future generations? If you don’t win, you don’t accept the result.

In sports, especially, no matter how unpalatable the outcome, there needs to be perspective. We were reminded of that by the senseless knife-wielding incident at Ohio State on Monday.

That is real life. Winning or losing in football, no matter how much we care, is not on that level.

I hate to sound like a diplomatic coach, but no one play cost Michigan that game. When you throw two interceptions that your opponent turns into 14 points, that’s pretty serious damage. Another fourth-quarter first down or two also would have been huge.

Finishing is part of the deal. In football, as in life.

We’ve celebrated Harbaugh’s zany side all fall in this ``Harbaugh Weekly’’ space. Because a lot of the energy he brings is good for college football, good for sports in general.

We like it when someone in a buttoned-down profession like major college football coach takes a wide-eyed ``life is an experience’’ approach.

That’s especially true when the coach is someone as gifted as Harbaugh. One of the reasons we are so fascinated is because, face it, the man excels at coaching. At Stanford, with the 49ers, and now at Michigan, he has accomplished remarkable things.

And it’s especially mesmerizing when the coach combines a fun side with a core that is as leather-helmet tough as his mentors, Bo Schembechler and Mike Ditka.

But this complaining about the officials—in effect, not accepting defeat—tarnishes the whole deal.

The Big Ten’s $10,000 fine is a statement, but not a huge one. I’m not saying it should be higher. What is any fine to someone who could make $10 million in one year?

I did the math: A $10,000 fine to someone in Harbaugh’s tax bracket would be like an $80 fine to someone who earns $80,000. In Chicago, that can be a parking ticket.

Time will tell, but I suspect that Harbaugh is going to pay a much bigger price—in the public perception of him.

I don’t know that I necessarily agree with that. A competitor reveals himself a few moments after a devastating defeat, and produces a taint that will linger for a long, long time.

But that’s the nature of the modern world. When you walk in Jim Harbaugh’s cleats, you have to deal with any number of challenges, and handle them well.

On this one, he dropped the ball. And sadly—for all of us—he’s going to be reminded of that for a long, long time.[/membership]

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