Some Zohn readers are sore at me because I referred to Jim Harbaugh as Jimmy. Some are more than sore. Some are outraged. You would have thought I accused Harbaugh of murdering babies.

Some wrote I lost my journalistic objectivity by belittling Harbaugh with the nickname Jimmy. I’ve got news for you. I have no objectivity. I am an opinion writer and my opinions are all over my prose. If you want objective reporting read Matt Maiocco and don’t bother with me. I may upset you.

I reveal my opinions in different ways. Sometimes I just come out and write what I think. Sometimes I use satire or irony or sarcasm — take your pick. When I call Harbaugh Jimmy I’m using one of the aforementioned.

Here is my distinction between Jim Harbaugh and Jimmy.

Jim Harbaugh is the professional coach who did a great job at Stanford and has done a great job at the 49ers. I respect coaches who do a great job. I respect Jim Harbaugh, the coach.

Jimmy is the guy who reveals himself to the media too much of the time. He would reveal himself to you, too, if you hung around him any amount of time. Jimmy is the 11 year old inside of Coach Harbaugh. You remember what it was like when you were 11. You were self-conscious. You were secretive. You might have thought people were scheming behind your back. You might have been a touch paranoid. Your remarks sometimes were out of context, rude even, and you had trouble reading a room.

Jimmy, as I experience him, has some of the tendencies I just enumerated. Jim Harbaugh is a grown man but Jimmy is a kid. I might have fun shooting hoops with Jimmy or drinking milk and eating Ding Dongs with him, but he’s hard to cover for a serious writer like me because he’s snide and secretive and just plain rude and evasive. And none of this helps his coaching in spite of what some readers believe. Jimmy could be much more professional and he’d still win loads of games. In the process of being more professional he would better represent the 49ers.

When Harbaugh acts like Jim Harbaugh, I will call him Harbaugh on my blog. When he acts like Jimmy, I will at times call him Jimmy. I encourage Jim Harbaugh to excise his inner Jimmy. I know Jimmy way too well. I long to know Jim Harbaugh.

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  1. Stan

    IF you had called him Jimmy-Jim-Jim? THEN i might think you were messing with him. hee.
    It doesn’t matter to me..You aren’t held in high esteem by Harbaugh,and he makes that public..what does he expect from you? Really,what?
    Just make sure Lowell you sit far enough away so you can get a good start running the other way when he goes all “Jimmy”.!

    September 5th, 2012 1:42 pm

  2. Hank

    Jimmy just had Jack, and now Jack has another Jack. Lowell has Grant. Maybe Lowell can talk about Grant to Jimmy and Jimmy and Lowell can connect on some level.

    I get the sense that if you antagonize Lowell, you get the rude boot to the curb of his blog. I get the sense that if you antagonize Jimmy, you get the rude boot to the curb of the press room.

    Ergo, Lowell is Jimmy.

    Does that count as namecalling?

    September 5th, 2012 2:05 pm

  3. Dave T

    Well said. Even if I do not desire to know Coach Jim Harbaugh. It is your column, your blog and you reserve the right to write as you please. Just as we, your readers and bloggers reserve the right to differ and disagree.

    As always, thanks for providing the topic(s), fodder and virtual water cooler to debate all things sports and some things not. It’s appreciated and a nice diversion the the duldrums of every day life.

    September 5th, 2012 2:11 pm

  4. CohnZohn

    Hank, Lowell is Jimmy. I need to think about that one.

    September 5th, 2012 2:11 pm

  5. Pablo

    First, thanks for your reply to my comment regarding your attitude and sarcasm toward Mr. Harbaugh. I understand your point of view. But, that doesn’t mean I agree with it. I don’t.
    Secondly, I’m not sore at you for what you’ve written. No one can make me happy, sad, sore or any other feeling without my giving them permission to do so. I don’t let others have power over my feelings.
    Your reaction to Jim Harbaugh simply allows me to know your values and worldview.
    Thirdly, I disagree. I don’t believe two wrongs make a right. When encountering your situation—dealing with a less than pleasant person, I don’t take it personally. What’s wrong with the eye-for-an-eye mentality is that it makes all those involved half-blind, not a favorable outcome.
    I don’t look for a loaf of bread when I go to Home Depot. If a professional coach’s behavior or communication style is less than ideal, I’d accept it, which means I consider my options. I have choices.
    If I were a writer for a paper, I could talk with other coaches on the Niners team or the players. Or I could cover another subject. I’ve learned that I’m powerless over all the nouns and pronouns in my life—people, places and things. That would include Jim Harbaugh.
    Coming to that conclusion provides me with plenty of serenity and sanity. Getting agitated towards others is like using a rocking chair. It gives me plenty to do but it gets me no where.
    Thanks for the dialog—at least you are spurring conversation and piquing interest in your blog.
    And go Giants! (I’d love for you to do a piece about either the angelic pagan or Lincecum.)

    September 5th, 2012 2:17 pm

  6. CohnZohn

    Thanks, Dave T

    September 5th, 2012 2:19 pm

  7. CohnZohn

    Pablo, Thanks for your comments. They are a pleasure to read and they make me think and re-evaluate.

    September 5th, 2012 2:21 pm

  8. Allan


    I don’t recall seeing any of your readers saying that you were “murdering babies.” Now who’s being “a touch paranoid?” Is it really the best use of “sarcasm” or “irony” when you change someone’s first name intended to put them down? It sounds more like a strategy used by an elementary school student rather than an “opinion writer.” Everything you say about Harbaugh is probably true, but the way you decided to express it reveals more about you and not in a very positive way.

    September 5th, 2012 3:10 pm

  9. RYD


    First keep it up your are a pleasure to read and always have been.

    As to the Niners coach I hear him on KNBR on occasion and he is only slightly better than his predecessor SIngeltary. My guess is if he had a losing record fans would not accept his act. Winning trumps all

    It is odd that baseball managers never act this way in interviews. It seems to be the Bill Belichick approach to the media for many NFL coaches.

    The Jim and Jimmy play is quite entertaining.

    September 5th, 2012 3:38 pm

  10. Brady

    Do you not find it the tiniest bit ironic that your way of handling 11-year old Harbaugh is with name calling?

    September 5th, 2012 4:00 pm

  11. CohnZohn

    Not particularly, Brady

    September 5th, 2012 4:03 pm

  12. Brady

    Fair enough. From the outside it looks an awful lot like the pot calling the kettle black, just so you know.

    Mature discourse on why someone shouldn’t act 11 provides more strength than 11 year old discourse on why someone shouldn’t act 11…

    September 5th, 2012 4:58 pm

  13. David

    You think Jim acts like a child and it seems most of your readers think you are being childish? Seems ironic to me.

    September 5th, 2012 6:31 pm

  14. russell

    Dear Lowell,

    Please don’t make light of such a deadly serious issue. We will be forced to take our ball and go home.

    The “Faithful”

    September 5th, 2012 6:35 pm

  15. chris

    I thyink Hank is refering to you Lowell as jimmy because he thinks you’re acting juvenile by calling Harbaugh Jimmy when he acts juvenile……..too much. You’re opinon writing has always made you stand out. It can hurt if you’re going against someone one roots for, but you’re writing makes for entertaining thought provoking material. Hall of Fame stuff. Harbaughs little league teammates mustuv called him Jimmy when he would catch the ball in front of a fellow outfielder waiting for the ball.

    September 5th, 2012 7:04 pm

  16. Lo Sbandato

    On the subject of football and outrage, Jerry Jones says thanks:


    September 5th, 2012 8:31 pm

  17. Albert Park

    Lowell, I love your columns, but I need objective reporting too. Where do I find this Matt Miaocco?

    September 5th, 2012 11:10 pm

  18. Gopal

    Snide, secretive, rude and evasive?

    Could this be the Al Davis influence?

    September 6th, 2012 8:11 am

  19. Gopal

    Can you compare Harbaugh to other head coaches of local significance in terms of his interaction with the media?

    September 6th, 2012 8:16 am

  20. CohnZohn

    Albert Park, You find Maiocco on comcastsportsnet. com. Grant Cohn, my son, does a nice job for the PD on his blog, Inside the 49ers.

    September 6th, 2012 8:51 am

  21. CohnZohn

    Gopal, I can’t speak to Dennis Allen, have not yet been around him much. Mark Jackson, Bruce Bochy and Bob Melvin are total gentlemen. They understand what we in the media do and they respect it and they work with us without giving away what they don’t want to give away. I also enjoy David Shaw and Jeff Tedford.

    September 6th, 2012 8:55 am

  22. lameduck

    OK LoSbandato (male crush?) whatever, but that link is the type of stuff that chaps my hide. Worse, it makes me support Obama’s tax deal.

    On the subject, I’m outraged at the Giants right now as they have offered their “valued” season ticket holders a deal they can’t refuse. Basically asking to renegotiate their ticket contract now so they won’t charge us even more later. A big thank you to them as well for financing the stadium. Thanks for the brick.

    Maybe I’ll call Larry, Larry. I guess that doesn’t have the same effect.

    September 6th, 2012 10:42 am

  23. Dave T


    Out of curiosity, is it Jimmy with a hard J, or Jimmy with a Y, as in Yimmmy, like in the films The Whole Nine Yards and its sequel? I like to think of the petulant 11 year old as Yimmy. You know, the kid who does not play well with others. And Jimmy as a chummy name used amongst friends.

    Of course it does not really matter in the grand scheme of things. But I will say this. Having a 10 year old in the house the two big things we are focused on right now are: 1. Being in the moment and treating others in that moment how you want to be treated, even if they behave badly. 2. Find solutions to problems and not excuses.

    Having said that, I also believe that as adults we have learned nuances and a sense of timing, a realization of when and where we can toe the line and perhaps even cross it. And to that end I believe your use of Jimmy vs. Jim is just that, an approproate time to toe the line. Harbaugh is yet a young coach in the NFL and has a lot to learn if he wants to remain successful over a long period of time. A look at the NFL landscape of long tenured head coaches will tell the tale, where a coach like Belicheck is the exception and not the rule, because as a fellow blogger pointed out, winning trumps all. Fail to win, and his antics and career will be short lived.

    September 6th, 2012 10:51 am

  24. KauaiRobert

    Question: If you percieve this ‘Jimmy’ personna as a less-mature version of Jim, aren’t you lowering yourself to that level of maturity when you refer to him as Jimmy?

    September 6th, 2012 11:20 am

  25. KauaiRobert

    And do we have your permission to refer to you as ‘Lowie’ when we feel you’re coming across as evasive or secretive?

    September 6th, 2012 11:25 am

  26. CohnZohn

    DaveT, Hard J

    September 6th, 2012 11:30 am

  27. CohnZohn

    KauaiRobert, I don’t think so, but lots of readers think I am. Maybe I’m just immature.

    September 6th, 2012 11:30 am

  28. CohnZohn

    Sure, KauaiRobert, although my mom called me Lowelly. I’m not usually evasive or secretive.

    September 6th, 2012 11:31 am

  29. KauaiRobert

    Sounds too much like ‘lowly’ which doesn’t sound very flattering to me.
    I’ll stick to Lowell…or Mr. Cohn when I really disagree with you.
    Say hi to Jimmy for me.

    September 6th, 2012 11:53 am

  30. Stan

    I am serious student-a master- of the observation of body language. Said it a few times too. And Harbaugh’s presscon? He was in a zone. It was like he just saw clouds and was speaking to the unseen.
    He’s got a few loose screws. I cant see how a man in the public as long as he can be so socially awkward. Doesn’t make him bad,but if you try to break that shell..he’s going to react badly.
    And Lowell has put a few fine cracks into Jim’s hard boiled shell.

    September 6th, 2012 12:05 pm

  31. Stan

    Obama’s tax on the well off? I always like what Michael Caine-the actor said about taxes “When I first got started in acting,I used to wish I made enough to be taxed” Like I always say,you make the rich pay a fare share-and their still rich. They can still buy the toys.

    September 6th, 2012 12:12 pm

  32. Kommon Senze

    I understand where you are coming from, Lowell, and I can appreciate that, as a columnist (and not a beat writer) the standards of objectivity are different from those writing news articles.

    I wonder though.. is it fair to get upset at ‘Jimmy’ and cite the fact that you are a ‘serious writer’? Does that not imply the journalistic standards that you, as a columnist, previously stated you are not beholden to?

    I’m not asking to be snide. I just wondered what your opinion was, because I find this line of thinking to be double-edged. Perhaps you could be upset for the beat writers, who are working to try and get real answers, but are often stymied by Harbaugh’s stare downs and deflective responses, but as a commentator, is it fair to have the same expectations?

    In any case, the thing I’ve taken away from this particular ‘storyline’ is that Harbaugh’s stonewalling has become frustrating to many who report on the 49ers. Personally, I’m not irritated by it. I would love it if he were a little more affable at times and forthcoming, but if he feels more comfortable keeping things close to the vest, I don’t have a problem with it.

    Again, I understand that the journalists job is to try and get the information as soon as possible, and to follow up on a story. I don’t fault the beat writers, etc. for asking the question. But when he decides not to comment, why is that an issue? If there was something truly nefarious behind him avoiding comment, then.. yeah.. I’d get the rancor. But, as it turned out, I don’t think there was a problem with him having kept that quiet for the time being.

    But don’t let any of what I said stop you from sharing your opinions, Lowell. While I don’t always agree, I enjoy reading them all the same.

    September 6th, 2012 1:18 pm

  33. CohnZohn

    Kommon Senze, Thanks for your thoughtful note. I am not upset by Harbaugh’s behavior. I don’t approve of it, but it doesn’t upset me. I believe there is a difference. I like to needle him and sometimes nail him for acting unprofessionally. I am entitled to do that. I also am allowed to write satirically about him. He deserves it. I am not upset. I like writing in that tone. He does more than withhold answers. He constantly shows disdain for journalism and journalists. That is an unenlightened attitude. It really is. I didn’t have disdain for Red Smith or Jim Murray or Jimmy Cannon or Glenn Dickey — all columnists — or beat writers like Ira Miller or Ron Thomas or Jack Fiske. They were serious workmen, serious pros who deserved respect and professional behavior. Harbaugh would not have given it to them. Imagine Jim Harbaugh being rude to Red Smith. The mind reels.

    September 6th, 2012 2:21 pm

  34. Dennis

    Lowell, you are not entitled to anything. Nobody is. You get what you get and you make the most of it. You don’t like what you get find something else to do. You want to belittle him, write satirically about him, so be it. It is your space and your right. But stop crying when he treats you and your craft with disdain. You are starting to sound like Stan when he writes about conservatives. After awhile……..

    September 6th, 2012 3:05 pm

  35. CohnZohn

    Dennis, Excuse me but you should hear yourself.

    September 6th, 2012 6:27 pm

  36. Brian in Oakland

    I find it amazing that the sentiment expressed by commentors like Dennis basically advocates for boring, softball, plain vanilla, missionary only, non-confrontational, Larry King style of journalism.

    Are you guys aware of how boring that stuff is or do you have no sense of what’s fun?

    Lowell is a blast to read. You guys need to lighten up. Go have a bowel movement and then try to come back to this blog and smile.

    September 7th, 2012 10:31 am

  37. Dave T

    If the Niners lose, will Jimmy take his toys and go home? Or if they win, will look askance down his nose at you all with an “I told you so look”? Or perhaps will the professional coach Jim simply field questions and answer them as they should be.

    Oh, here was a fun nugget from Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday when asked about his starting corner opposite Ike Taylor: “I don’t anoint people in terms of jobs or positions. I’ll let you guys do that.” I get a kick out of his Press Conferences, as he seems to have a good give and take with the media. Maybe Jim can take a que from Mike?

    September 8th, 2012 2:31 am

  38. Dennis

    Brian in Oakland,

    Quite the contrary my friend. All I am advocating for is a change in subject matter. This one has been rode hard and put to bed wet. Time to move on. We get it and most of us agree with it: Harbaugh is mean to the press.

    September 8th, 2012 7:19 am

  39. Mibrown11

    You are out of touch. Jim Harbaugh owes you nothing. You probably enjoyed Nolan or Singletary more because they had no depth; Harbaugh is superior and you obviously can’t handle how insignificant sports writers are to him. Get over it. He is only concerned with his team and preparing them to win, which is what a true fan expects and supports. I have no problem with Harbaugh’s dealings with the media, I judge him on results on Sundays. Your inability to understand that makes you the fool.


    September 8th, 2012 7:12 pm

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