Q&A with Jim Harbaugh

In a prior blog, you read the infamous advice about handling tough questions offered by Robert S. McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during the controversial Vietnam War:

Never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked of you. And quite frankly, I follow that rule. It’s a very good rule.

But it’s only a good rule for government officials and politicians. While the public has come to tolerate non-answers from such individuals, most other people, in most other walks of life—particularly business men and women—can never get away with ducking questions.

Except for sports figures. Most press conferences in the sports arena are never more than an exchange of innocuous answers to innocuous questions for one very simple reason: all that matters in sports is what happens on the playing field. Talking about a game in advance or after the fact devolves into either meaningless conjecture or equally meaningless rehash.

Jim Harbaugh, the coach of the Super Bowl-bound San Francisco Forty-niners, understands the rules of the press conference game, but he makes his non-answers a form of art. In anticipation of this Sunday’s big game, Mr. Harbaugh’s artful style was captured by Kevin Clark, a sportswriter for the Wall Street Journal, in this clever article.