Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh is the kind of guy who would seemingly do anything to win. In 2016, Harbaugh, who is a full-grown adult, had a sleepover with a high school kicker to convince him to join the Wolverines. It worked, thus reinforcing the idea that there is a method to Harbaugh’s madness. He’s intense and odd, but, dagnabbit, he gets results. So when he tells his players to stop eating chicken because it carries a mystery illness that threatens to destroy the world’s population, he expects them to listen.
On Wednesday, Bleacher Report published a profile of new Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson. In that piece, former Wolverine Wilton Speight provided some background on what it’s like to play for Harbaugh. Speight went deeper than expected.
Early in his Michigan tenure, Harbaugh pulled Speight aside and told him not to eat chicken, a protein that is considered fairly safe by nutritionists. When Speight asked why, Harbaugh said, “because it’s a nervous bird.”
You see, a chicken would choke on the football field. It can’t handle the pressure of 100,000 ravenous Buckeyes calling for its head, so why eat it?
But wait, this wild and unproven theory is about to get even more wild and unproven. “He thinks some type of sickness injected its way into the human population when people began eating white meats instead of beef and pork,” Speight told Bleacher Report. “And he believes it, 100 percent.”
Let’s run some numbers to find out when this “sickness” began. According to the National Chicken Council, Americans started eating more poultry than beef in 1989 (74.4 pounds per capita vs. 68.9 pounds per capita). The first full generation of football players raised on a poultry-dominant diet would have been eligible to play for Michigan around 2008.
The Wolverines finished 3-9 in 2008.
It was the worst record in the team’s 129-year history.
Dear God, Harbaugh is on to something.
Thankfully, he has time. The per capita consumption of poultry didn’t leapfrog the combined tally of beef and pork until 2015. It’s going to take a lot of recruiting slumber parties, but Harbaugh may be able to reverse that trend before it’s too late.