Here is a link to my Thursday column about the holdout of Vernon Davis. The full text runs below:
SANTA CLARA — Let’s get the important stuff out of the way. Jim Harbaugh’s pants.
He spoke to the media Wednesday at high noon at the edge of the practice field, spoke while surrounded by cameras and microphones, answered questions about Anquan Boldin and other 49ers. While he spoke, I eyeballed his trousers.
You would have, too. As you know, his wife Sarah made fun of his shapeless, old-man pants in a recent ad, a very good ad. In the commercial, you see Harbaugh barbecuing. He’s wearing new stylish Dockers. His daughter points at him and asks Sarah who that man is — meaning he looks too cool to be droopy-drawers Dad.
Cut to Wednesday. I noticed something disturbing about Harbaugh’s pants.
“Are those the good pants you’re wearing today?” I asked accusingly.
“The good pants?” Harbaugh said.
“Yeah, the ones in the ad when you’re barbecuing and stuff. Are those those pants?”
I was shocked. I empathized with poor Sarah.
“How many pairs of those do you have, the good pants?” I asked.
“Ah, quite a few, quite a few new ones.” Harbaugh’s voice was bursting with pride.
“You ought to wear them down here some time. Snap up the image.”
“Huh?” Harbaugh said.
“Snap up the image.”
“I still kind of like the loose-fitting,” he said as he slid a hand inside his belt and pushed out the waist. He smiled, a man dooming himself to the old Dad look.
So, here’s what I want to know. Can the marriage survive the pants?
Now to serious matters. Call it the Matter of Vernon Davis who is boycotting minicamp, a required team activity. On Tuesday, Harbaugh had said he was disappointed in Davis’ decision to stay away. Harbaugh said that’s not the 49ers’ way.
Several reporters addressed Davis again on Wednesday. “You said you were disappointed and I’d like to know what the nature of the disappointment is,” I asked. “And if he stays away, I’m talking about Vernon, can it hurt the team?”
Harbaugh was thoughtful. “I was disappointed in the decision not to come to the minicamp,” he said. “Didn’t call anybody out. There was no call out.”
“I didn’t say you called him out.”
“I didn’t say you did. Some people did, though. I thought that was ridiculous. The second point is we’re going to keep the focus on what is going on here. Who is here and the players we’re coaching, that’s where the focus is going to be.”
When a reporter asked if Harbaugh, as a former player, understands how players feel about contracts, Harbaugh said, “The three, four, five follow-up questions, it gets to be badgering. It gets old. I covered it thoroughly yesterday; I don’t think there’s anything more to say.”
The badgering remark was — what? — cute. Harbaugh could have wiped out the three of us by breathing hard. It may have felt like badgering to him. And here’s the funny thing.
I agree with Harbaugh. What Davis is doing is not the 49ers’ way. Well, that may be overstating it. But Davis is not acting appropriately. Right guard Alex Boone, also a holdout, is not acting appropriately. But I am not writing about Boone. Davis is more important.
Here’s my problem with Davis. In my world, a contract is a contract. Contracts are binding. Both sides agree to them. In 2010, Davis signed a six-year, $42 million contract which made him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL. Despite his current unhappiness with his deal, he still is the third-highest-paid tight end. And his contract has two years to run. Come on.
Could he make more on the open market? Probably.
Is he underpaid based on his value to the Niners? Probably.
He should have understood this in 2010. Or his agent should have. It is not the 49ers’ fault his contract no longer appeals to him. And it is not the 49ers’ problem.
The 49ers have made Davis a wealthy man, wealthy beyond our wildest imaginings. Now, he wants to be even wealthier. Sorry, Vernon, no tears for you.
There’s something else. If Davis got hurt in a game at any point in his career, if he had to miss an entire season, the Niners still would have been on the hook to pay him. They couldn’t say, “We want out of the contract.” Davis should not say he wants out of a contract he signed with full understanding of its meaning. It is bad form verging on unseemly and immoral.
I’ll tell you something else. He is playing a game of chicken with the Niners and he will lose. He has no leverage. He has a few years left in his football life. No way will he give up one of those years. He will cave at some point. If he caves too late, say at the end of training camp, he will not be in game shape and he will hurt the team. Does he care?
He’s been talking about his holdout lately. Wrote a piece for SI.com. Yakked on a million radio stations. Told one station, “Every decision that I make is in the best interest of my brand.”
Turns out he actually has a brand. You can buy stock in Vernon Davis. There was an IPO offering.
Oh, why didn’t I think of a brand when I was young? You, Dear Reader, could have bought shares of Lowell Cohn. I could have a second home in Maui just because you love me. I could be driving a Rolls. I could scarf down food at Chez Panisse every night. All because of my value to the world, now wasted forever.
Not Davis. He has a brand. He wants to cash in on his celebrity, such as it is. It must burn him up that Harbaugh really has a brand of sorts, is so marketable — Dad Pants and Dockers and all that.
Advice to Davis. You are not a brand. You are a football player. Be one.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.