NEW ORLEANS -- Standard line about the Harbaugh boys back when they were growing up was, “first one across the goal line wins.”
It was usually John, who is 15 months older.
And as every child of reading or listening or reading age surely knows by now, Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII it will be 49-year-old Jim’s San Francisco 49ers as 3 1/2-point favorites over 50-year-old John’s Baltimore Ravens.
So here’s 49ers fullback Bruce Miller on his coach Jim: “He’s just a fanatic about the game.”
And here’s Ravens running back on his coach John: “Understand, he’s a fanatic.”
Is that clear? Harbaughs as fanatics? How else would you explain the incredible long shot of brothers coaching Super Bowl opponents?
Raven John may be a few months older, but he was the family underdog growing up. “Playing any sport with Jim was a test of will for all of us,” John said, just as though it still isn’t. “Jim was ahead of his time — he was bigger and stronger than all the kids his age. He was good enough to take it to us on a regular basis. We played seven sports when I was in seventh grade. If you played hockey with Jim, you got bounced around. Actually, that was pretty true for any sport.”
So the 49ers are reckoned as the team to beat. Just don’t figure John figures that way.
And here’s Jim on the subject of John: “He’s a great coach. Very talented. I think I’m just half the coach he is, but I’m trying. Actually, that might be a little generous to myself. I have less than half the experience he has, less than half the playoff appearances, etc.”
Added 49ers fullback Miller: “Jim Harbaugh loves football, he loves coaching and he loves all of his players. How much more can you say about any coach?”
Somebody asks Jim how he would console John if Jim’s 49ers won. “That’s a very interesting thing,” Jim said. “Life is full of bitter disappointments” — and seldom more than in the NFL. “The great thrill of winning is there, but we understand the other side, too. We’ll do everything in our power to not let that happen.”
The brothers’ bloodlines reach farther than just to each other. They cut their coaching teeth under dad Jack at Western Michigan.
And how does it feel for the “kids” to reach the place generally considered the pinnacle of football.
“Like we have to win to prove we belong here,” Jim said, just like a coach.
“Feels good — so far,” is John’s version. “But if you lose, you might just as well have stayed home.”
Coachspeak, right? Exactly what you would expect from the coaching sons of a coaching dad.
Hey, one thing you know.
Harbaugh will win.