This Sunday marks the first time in
NFL history that the Super Bowl will be coached by opposing brothers, John and
Jim Harbaugh. No one hates that stat more than their parents.
Two years ago, Jack and Jackie
Harbaugh celebrated Thanksgiving unlike any couple ever had. Instead of a table
lined with their family, they sat in an office at M&T Bank Stadium in
Baltimore. Instead of watching their sons play two-hand-touch in the backyard,
they watched them scream into their headsets on national television. Instead of
falling asleep in the recliner, Jack and Jackie slipped into the locker room
where Jim sat alone after being defeated by elder John.
In a conference call with the media
leading up to the Super Bowl, Jack said he had never seen his wife of 51 years look
the way she did on Thanksgiving Day when the brothers first squared off.
“She just stared at the screen, no
facial emotion whatsoever, just a blank stare, not a word spoken.”
This is a woman that has been
watching football for a long time.
Jack coached both high school and
college football, retiring in 2002. John coached college ball before getting
his NFL break with the Philadelphia Eagles, then taking over the Ravens in
2008. Jim quarterbacked the Michigan Wolverines, then spent 14 years in the
NFL. After retiring in 2001, he coached for the Raiders, found success as
Stanford’s head coach and revived the 49ers.
When time expired on that
Thanksgiving Day, Jack and Jackie did not celebrate because John had won. Nor
did they mourn because Jim had lost. They were just happy the game was over.
That was just a warm-up.
This Sunday, rather than sitting
quietly at their home in Mequon, Wis., the Harbaughs will be located in a yet
undisclosed location inside the Superdome in the midst of the greatest
spectacle in American sports.
“I know one is going to win, and one
is going to lose,” said Jackie during their conference call, “but I would
really like it to end in a tie. Can the NFL do that?”
Luckily for us—not for the
Harbaughs—thanks to the NFL’s amended playoff overtime rules, a tie cannot
happen, and sudden death must be played out until a winner is determined.
So while a nation of ravenous
football fans drink beer, laugh at commercials, load their plates up with wings
and enjoy America’s favorite unofficial holiday, the Harbaughs will be sitting
quietly. They won’t cheer, they won’t pick sides. They’ll hardly even smile
when the confetti cascades from the rafters.
The will continue to do what they
have always done: love their sons, the winner and the loser.