James Harbaugh Jr., one of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh’s seven kids, took his father to task for his wardrobe and his publicity stunts in a hilarious and wide-ranging interview on a recent podcast.
Appearing on the Boston-based “Two Outs” podcast this week, James Jr. discussed coming from a coaching family as well as his coming-out — and his father’s positive reaction to the news last fall.
Among the highlights was his take on his dad’s famous khakis, which used to be purchased from Walmart. Now, he wears the more-upscale Lululemon brand.
“Oh, God,” James Jr. said with a laugh when asked about the khakis. “They’re hideous!
“I wish you guys could see, you see him on the field and stuff. ... He comes home in full-on, like, I mean he’s still wearing it at home sometimes. And if he ever varies from it, it’ll be equally as bad, like a full-on sweatsuit and then his Crocs with socks. So there’s not a better alternative. You almost want him to go back to his khakis.”
James Jr. also went into a little rant about his dad’s knack for getting himself in the headlines.
Every morning when James Jr. wakes up, he said, he’ll first grab his phone and check his social media. He said he saves Facebook for last, knowing he’s going to see something about his dad that is attention-grabbing for the masses, but embarrassing if that’s your father.
“I know every single day when I scroll a couple scrolls down with your finger, I’m gonna see something stupid and ridiculous about my dad doing something crazy, and I’m just always scared to see what it’s gonna be,” James Jr. said. “I’m in New York City in May, and there’s a picture of him with the Pope, like, that’s a new thing, that’s weird.
“Then it gets to ridiculous crap. ... The other day there’s a video of him jumping off a diving board in, like, full-on khakis and everything in the pool here, and I refused to watch it because I just didn’t want to subject myself to that. ... I was telling other people, ‘Just tell me what happened, spare me. Does it go badly? How bad is it?’
“The next day, it will be doing pushups with a walrus, he’s sleeping over this kid’s house that’s like my age. It’s always, like, bizarre. ... It’s weird every day.
“It’s genius of him to keep himself in the news the way he does. That’s what he wants. He does it on purpose. Being talked about at all is better than nothing.”
James Jr., 21, a child of Harbaugh’s first marriage to Miah, is a theater major at Michigan. After his parents divorced, he lived with his mom, but still had a close relationship with his dad.
It’s only gotten closer since coming to Michigan, James Jr. said.
That relationship took another step in November, in the wee hours after Election Night, after Donald Trump had been elected president. During the early morning text exchange, James Jr. told his dad he’s gay.
“It was actually after the election. It was the night of it, it was like at 2 a.m., I texted him and said something like, I don’t know ... I just told him, I was really nervous and I was scared about how things were going to be now, because I didn’t feel comfortable about stuff,” James Jr. said. “He said something very encouraging back.
“And I wasn’t sure if like, because him and I had never talked about it, if he knew what I was trying to say, so I just flat-out verbatim told him, ‘dad, I’m gay, do you know that?’
“And he just said something else back. It was another, like, encouraging, uplifting response ... ‘As long as you do what you feel is right in your mind and you live your truth, blah, blah, blah, everything will end up being OK.’ Something like that.
“I know he’s supportive of me. I feel like I’m lucky in that regard, that my entire family is supportive of me.”
The hosts of the “Two Outs” podcast — Boston radio personality Alex Reimer and Boston Herald sports columnist Steve Buckley, both openly gay — peppered James Jr. with a number of questions about his dad, including growing up in such a football-heavy household.
James Jr. was born when Jim Harbaugh was playing for the Indianapolis Colts. His uncle, John, is the coach of the Baltimore Ravens. His grandfather, Jack, was a longtime coach. His brother, Jay, is a running-backs coach for Michigan.
So, how did James Jr. get skipped over in the football professional?
“That’s the question I’m asking all the time, man,” James Jr. said with a laugh. “I think about this every so often. ... When I was younger, there was just so much football all the time.
“And I think because there was so much of it, I wanted to find things to do that weren’t that.”
James Jr. actually credits his dad for turning him on to theater.
In 2009, when Jim Harbaugh was coaching at Stanford, he took the family to see “Wicked” in San Francisco, and James Jr. was blown away.
Still, James Jr. is an avid football fan who says he can break down film like nobody’s business, and despite moving all over the country when he was younger, his allegiance to Michigan is pure as can be.
“I don’t respect Ohio State on any level,” he said, “as an institution, and as a football team.”