For Harbaugh brothers John and Jim, Super Bowl XLVII brings a family feud

Sunday will be a roller-coaster day for Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, whose sons will be the first brothers to coach against one another in the Super Bowl.

02/03/2013 12:00 AM

02/03/2013 12:26 AM

Super Bowl XLVII: The game that has launched a thousand cringe-inducing puns.

The Harbowl. The Super Baugh. And plenty others that will make your brain hurt just by hearing them.

But beyond the hype, there’s something very real about this wholly unique situation. John and Jim Harbaugh, separated by just 15 months, will become the first brothers ever to meet in the Super Bowl as coaches.

The odds of that happening are too remote to even fathom. Think winning Powerball while being struck by lightning.

The proud sons of Jack and Jackie Harbaugh — names so nice, they used them twice — shared a special moment Friday. They held a joint news conference talking about themselves, their parents, their teams and a little Shakespeare.

“St. Crispin’s Day speech, he’s got it memorized, it’s unbelievable,” John, the elder, said of Jim, his far-from little brother.

That speech comes in Henry V, when the king coins the famous “Band of Brothers” phrase:

But we in it shall be remembered, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.

For three hours at least, these actual brothers will be foes. Jim’s 49ers are favored by a field goal over John’s Ravens, but most see the game as a coin flip.

As far as competitive sprits are concerned, it’s probably a toss-up. But that shared trait didn’t come from their football coaching father, who won a national championship at Western Kentucky. It is their mother who has the most fight, they said.

“She competes like a maniac,” said Jim, whose histrionics on the sidelines when things go awry are legendary. “She always believed in us, which was most important to me.”

That doesn’t mean she was a pushover. When John and Jim were in junior high school, they built a hockey goal out of chicken wire. Inevitably, the pucks found their way to the garage’s glass windows. Mom wasn’t happy.

But she and the rest of the clan were always supportive, and the happy couple has been the toast of the town this week. John and Jackie Harbaugh even held their own news conference earlier this week.

“The one thing that we watch and take great pride in is that both of them are themselves,” Jack Harbaugh said. “We were around [former Michigan coach] Bo Schembechler for a long time, and there were a lot of coaches that tried to emulate him.

“The first time you weren’t yourself, you were exposed and somewhat of a fraud. So, always be who you are and do not follow anyone else.”

Their sons were certainly that Friday. John has always been the more polished of the two, and he showed up in a suit. Jim wore the uniform he probably sleeps in: khaki pants, black shirt, Niners hat.

They danced around the trickier questions — yes, they advise each other closely; no, neither has given away any state secrets, yes, they will feel for whoever ends up on the short end of Sunday’s game.

Any philosophical commonalities?

“I’d be hard-pressed to spell philosophical right now,” Jim quipped.

Added John: “I know we couldn’t spell commonality. I would hope you see it in how the teams play, how they conduct each other. Watch the way they practice. They’ve been that way all year.”

The teams are even, and the coaches seem that way too, even if John called his brother the best in the game. But the Ravens’ coach does have a secret weapon: Jim’s son Jay, who is a coaching intern for Baltimore.

“He’s far better than even anticipated,” John Harbaugh said. “That’ll tip the scale. That’ll be our edge.”

With that, little brother shot big brother a grimace he probably has seen millions of times.

This should be fun.

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