FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Pathos. Michael Jordan. Ice cream. Oranges. And bikinis.
“I don’t have any thoughts on that,” Jim Harbaugh said.
Basically, Thursday gifted us your typical, occasionally absurd, Harbaugh news conference, a transcript that landed only a dead parrot away from an episode of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”
Michigan’s football coach won his only formal media event of Orange Bowl Week, responding to earnest questions earnestly (on cornerback Jourdan Lewis: “There’s a happiness about him that’s infectious”), passionate questions passionately (“Michael Jordan said the way he liked basketball, like eating ice cream, he wanted to do it every day, that resonates with me”), thoughtful questions thoughtfully (“I want them to leave with dignity and pride”), and inane questions adroitly.
News Conference Commandment No. 1: Disarm the dumb and avoid the stupid.
Thursday morning’s soiree ended with the latter, and the official Orange Bowl ASAP transcript almost doesn’t do the exchange between one reporter and Harbaugh justice:
Q. I want to get your thoughts on this because you have mentioned that the fun is in the football work and the team unity with the guys being down here with the practicing and everything, but your players are a little disappointed they haven’t seen any bikinis. I’d like to get your thoughts on that.
JIM HARBAUGH: I don’t have any thoughts on that.
Q. They would like to see some bikinis before they leave.
JIM HARBAUGH: I don’t know about that. I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Q. See the beach.
JIM HARBAUGH: I do not know what you’re talking about.
Q. The beach, the bikinis.
JIM HARBAUGH: Yeah. I don’t know anything about that.
Q. Not on the itinerary?
JIM HARBAUGH: Don’t know what you’re talking about.
He was smiling uncomfortably as he said it, pausing at the right times, internal wheels turning, deftly bobbing and weaving as each awkward punch failed to land.
News Conference Commandment No. 2: When every possible answer is a public-relations loss, don’t answer at all.
Although the dumb was well-handled, too, with a deadpan that would put Buster Keaton to shame:
Q. I know this is not your first time at the Orange Bowl. I wanted to get your overall thoughts on oranges, if you could eat oranges in a five-minute span, how many could you eat, do you like the taste of orange juice after you brush your teeth, and do you like mandarin oranges in your salad?
JIM HARBAUGH: Yeah, I mean, who doesn’t? I can’t find anybody that doesn’t like mandarin oranges. I find oranges to be very refreshing, and same with orange juice. Great thirst quencher, and last time I ate an orange was yesterday. I had one the day before that. I have not tried to see how many oranges I could eat in — what did you say, five minutes?
Q. How about oranges after you brush your teeth?
JIM HARBAUGH: Yeah, if that’s all you’ve got there, why not? It’s not the go-to post tooth-brushing rinse, but…
— Brian Chojnacki (@BroadcastingBri) December 29, 2016
News Conference Commandment No. 3: Praise fruit. Praise its wholesomeness, its healthiness, its heartiness, its general awesomeness. (Addendum 3a: Unless it’s the ackee fruit, which can actually freaking kill you.)
“Hello, Jim Harbaugh here to share with you the horrors of scurvy and the importance of citrus in your diet”
— Charlie (@coxasaurus) December 29, 2016
“I find cactuses to be refreshing.” — Jim Harbaugh at the Cactus Bowl
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) December 29, 2016
Yuk away, but for a Wolverine who’s been known to turn on scribes like a momma badger, Harbaugh was in a comparatively jovial mood throughout, playing the room about as well as you could. Although after that last round of bikini battering, he’s probably pining for the fjords, and a game that can’t here fast enough.