It was a cold morning in Iowa City and Jack Harbaugh was dropping his kids off at school. It was freezing—one of those days where the snot freezes inside your nose. You’re bundled up. You’re miserable. Your kids are sluggish, they’d rather be at home in bed or in front of the television.
But that’s not life. So as he got them out of the car, he knelt down and looked them in the eye and said “Come on, gentlemen, let’s attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. And don’t take any wooden nickels.” What did that even mean? Who knew exactly? Did it matter? They probably weren’t listening anyway.
Like so many dads, Harbaugh kept repeating this ridiculous line because, who knows why, that’s just what dads do. Not once in the five hundred times he said it over the course of their childhood did it get a reaction. Not once. But he kept at it, because he thought maybe it would get through.
Flash forward half a lifetime. His younger son, Jim Harbaugh is named head coach at Stanford. Jack is watching the press conference. His son steps up to the microphone and says,
“We’re going to attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. And don’t take any wooden nickels.”
It had been 36 years.
“My God,” Jack said to himself, “they were listening.”