For a few emotionally charged minutes, Sunday afternoon at Ford Field turned into Monday Night Raw, minus the folding chairs. After the Niners' tense 25–19 win over the formerly unbeaten Lions, San Fran coach Jim Harbaugh practically did cartwheels out to midfield, yanking his shirt out for an impromptu chest-bump with one of his guys and greeting Lions coach Jim Schwartz with a vigorous hand-slap and mini-shove. Clearly, Schwartz was in no mood for Harbaugh's youthful exuberance, chasing him toward the tunnel with a crazed look and delivering a chest-bump of his own.
Both guys are at fault for the melee — Harbaugh really should act like a pro and leave the spotlight to his team, and Schwartz just comes off as a hothead and a sore loser.
But it's an emotional game. And occasional displays of genuine emotion from guys who put their heart and soul into what happens on that field, who live and die with each play, should be expected. Encouraged, even.
And the best part about the birth of this unlikely rivalry? The Lions and 49ers are headliners after what seems like an eternity in the wilderness. Harbaugh's postgame enthusiasm shows that it finally means something to beat the Detroit Lions. And his Niners are now the NFC West favorites and could play deep into the New Year.
We can only hope that Round 2 of Harbaugh-Schwartz will come in the steel cage that is the NFL playoffs. Two Jims enter, one Jim leaves. How sweet would that be?