SANTA CLARA -- In the end, Jim Harbaugh had a bucket of ice water emptied over his head on Friday, but the 49ers coach made it clear it wasn’t because arch rival Pete Carroll challenged him to do it.
“Got another challenge with him,” Harbaugh said of the Seattle Seahawks coach. “... I think you know what that one is – the big one.”
Harbaugh said his brother, John, had extended him a so-called ALS ice-bucket challenge that predated Carroll’s dare, and that he finally had caught on to the social media trend that has whipped up everyone from Martha Stewart to Peyton Manning to raise awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“As usual, late to the Internet party on that – Twitter, Instagram, etc.” Harbaugh said. “I always seem to be behind, not on the cutting edge or cusp of those things.”
According to the the ALS Association, which has seen a huge influx of donations over the past two weeks, the origin of the challenge is a bit fuzzy. Apparently it started among family members of an ALS patient and began spreading from there. It really took off when it reached Peter Frates, a 29-year-old former Boston College baseball captain who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012.
Since Frates took the challenge last month, politicians, talk show hosts and sports figures have been dumping buckets of ice water over their heads and then challenging three others to do the same.
Anyone who declines is expected to make a donation – usually $100 – toward fighting ALS and improved care of ALS patients. Most of those who take the challenge end up donating anyway, which is why the ALS Association has received a massive boost.
Since July 29, the association has received $9.5 million in donations compared to $1.6 million during the same time period last year. The donations were from existing donors and 184,812 new donors.
Association spokesman Greg Cash noted that Carnival Cruise Lines on Friday pledged $100,000 in donations. Oprah Winfrey tweeted that she would take the plunge when she returned from traveling. Donations to the ALS Association can be made online at www.ALSA.org/donate.
There is no cure for the disease, which affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There’s just one drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and it only modestly extends survival.
Carroll took the ice-bucket plunge Tuesday at the Seahawks’ training camp, then called on the other NFC West coaches to do the same. Arizona’s Bruce Arians and St. Louis’ Jeff Fisher happily complied the next day.
Carroll noticed, taking to Twitter: “Props to Bruce Arians and Jeff Fisher for doing the #IceBucketChallenge! The NFC West is almost all in...”
Harbaugh? He didn’t catch on until Friday. But when he did, he accepted the challenge in typical Harbaugh fashion – on his terms and with gusto.
“I’m very excited about that,” he said. “... I’m looking forward to doing that, and I know just who I’m going to challenge. Now, I get to challenge how many people?”
Told he could choose three, the 49ers coach said he wanted some of the writers who cover the team – he named nine – to take the challenge. He also extended a challenge to President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.
Harbaugh said he wanted to be dunked on the Levi’s Stadium field before the team’s afternoon practice.
“That way the grass gets watered, too,” he said.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.