The Harbowl
Gus merwin
amarc543@uwsp.edu - Twitter @gusmerwin

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.