October 17, 2011
Jim Harbaugh says his much-discussed confrontation with Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz was due to an exuberant handshake. Schwartz claims he chased after the San Francisco 49ers coach because he didn't expect to get jostled nor be exposed to profanity during their postgame handshake.
Though neither of the coaches said so in their postgame press conference, the brewing discontent may actually have started much earlier, during a strange first-quarter incident in which Harbaugh tried to challenge a touchdown he wasn't allowed to challenge. The 49ers coach threw the red flag to see if Detroit's Brandon Pettigrew(notes) had maintained possession of the ball in the end zone. (Replays suggested he had.) The problem was that Harbaugh couldn't ask for a review on the play because all touchdowns are automatically reviewed by the booth. When his challenge flag came out, Harbaugh was penalized 15 yards for an illegal challenge.
That delighted Schwartz, who was caught by television cameras saying something like "know the rules" toward the 49ers bench. It was hardly the calm behavior of a man who would later be aghast at what he perceived was bad sportsmanship from Harbaugh.
Watch the replay and decide for yourself. The incident begins at the 1:30 mark of this clip, but watch the whole thing for full context:
Schwartz was pretty pleased with himself, stalking down the sidelines and reveling in Harbaugh's penalty. He definitely yells something toward the 49ers bench and possibly to Harbaugh himself.
Much of the talk about the handshake controversy implores people to choose sides: Harbaugh should tone it down. Schwartz is a bad loser. Harbaugh was childish. No, Schwartz was.
Why does it have to be black and white? Can't both men have acted immaturely? I tend to side with Harbaugh on this, not because he was right, but because Schwartz is a bit of a hypocrite. As we saw above, he delighted in Harbaugh's failed challenge and later acted like one obscenity pushed him over the edge, even though he dropped a profane word of his own after shaking hands with Harbaugh. And it's not like the Lions coach ever curses or shows too much enthusiasm after a victory. He's from the "do as I say, not as I do" school, I suppose.
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