Programming note: 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco is on the ground in Indianapolis to cover the NFL Combine. Check back for his coverage all weekend and get the full report on SportsNet Central every night at 6 and 10:30 p.m.
If Dutch speedskating coach Jillert Anema -- who got in a free one about American football this week -- had only known the full bizarreness and long-range ramifications of the Jim Harbaugh story, he would have simply dropped the mic at the feet of CNBC’s Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and walked off in eternal triumph.
Anema was justifiably proud of his nation’s running the table in the skating events -- they did to their sport what Seattle did to the Super Bowl. But the nuances of football -- specifically, what happens when organizational desperation, type-AAA personalities, creative tension, contract negotiations, public posturing, media demands, media petulance and a story too weird to fully absorb at one setting -- would surely have caught him unaware.
At least for a moment. Anema doesn’t look like the sort of guy who blinks easily. Maybe the 49ers should take a serious look at him when this all goes south.
The first problem with the Harbaugh story, though, is in knowing how much is actually true. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote the original story as though it was close to happening, and subsequent follows and exchanges with other writers have only served to muddy the tracks about what was, wasn't and might have been.
49er fromage Jed York and Harbaugh tweeted or texted denials, though without yet being quizzed about the specifics of any contact with the typically hilarious Browns. Harbaugh's contract status (which still has two years to run) remains murky, with night and morning friction, and there is no telling how much of the gear-grinding between coach and general manager Trent Baalke is behind the money wrangling.
In other words, Browns deal or no, the clashing of shields in the 49er front office is now a daily front-and-center item, and if York hasn’t already chosen a side, he’s going to have to, and sooner rather than later.
And this, children, is why one should never count one’s dynasties before they have actually been crowned. People have a tendency to turn into people, and more often than not, people end up being the biggest impediment to the greater achievements of other people.
Put another way, there is no known metric that allows for front office politics. In this way, Jillert Anema has an infinitely easier job. And based on his team’s results from Sochi, he could certainly demand the kind of contract Harbaugh wants from York.
Maybe that’s why Anema says football “sucks.” He will never see any of that Super Bowl-sized money even though his team won eight of the 12 available gold medals and almost 65 percent of all the available bric-a-brac. That’s like winning two of every three Super Bowls between now and 2026.
But we digress.
Speedskating does not have football’s inherent gift for lunacy on the grand scale. World War I did not have football’s inherent gift for lunacy on the grand scale. Even if we didn’t know about Cleveland’s interest in Harbaugh, the 49ers would still be a cavalcade of executive collisions over Harbaugh’s contract and desire for more control over his surroundings – his surroundings being anything he can see, imagine, or fly to.
And we’re not picking sides here. We’re not emotionally invested in the 49ers’ inner workings because ultimately York wins -- unless he is more easily pushed around than we think. The strained interplay between him, Baalke and Harbaugh isn’t going away with a simply tweeted denial about a less appealing job that might have piqued Harbaugh's interest, or at least honed his interest in leverage.
But all this fun is now out there, and unless the three of them decide to become best friends (yeah, right), this will be the new alternate story line to the actual playing of games -- all in keeping with their new corporate mantra, “Winning With Clash.”
Jillert Anema could learn much from this management style. It wouldn’t change his mind on why football sucks, but it will further educate him on why people drink before noon.