Super Bowl XLVII, like the 46 Super Bowls before it, will indeed be won or lost primarily by the players on the field, rather than the men standing on the sideline. Don’t tell that to any media member however, as to them it is all about Jim vs. John Harbaugh, as if the two men are going to duke it out at midfield to determine this year’s winner.
The two weeks leading up to this game are going to be stressful on every member of the Harbaugh family, and Jack, Jackie, and Joani Harbaugh will probably be more nervous than the brothers themselves for the big game. Jack, the father of John and Jim, was a coach himself back in the day, most notably at Western Kentucky from 1989-2002. Both John and Jim helped serve as assistants under their father, but Jack insists it was not because of him, but rather because his sons had developed the same love and passion for football as he did on their own.
“I think the greatest joy I got in my life,” Jack said, “after seeing all of the ups and downs, and the ins and outs, and all of the different things involved in the coaching profession – is that this is something they would decide [to do]. It was something they wanted to do.”
From college assistants to Super Bowl head coaches, both Harbaugh brothers acquired one trait from their father – they are both fearless. This was proven this season when during the home stretch of the regular season, both coaches made major shake ups in personnel that could have either cost them a playoff berth or catapult them to the Super Bowl. For John and the Ravens, it was the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, replacing him with Jim Caldwell. For Jim, the 49ers chose to name Colin Kaepernick the starting quarterback even after ex-starter Alex Smith returned from injury. Caldwell has helped turn a Ravens offense that was sputtering into one that has gotten clutch play after clutch play from quarterback Joe Flacco. Meanwhile on the west coast, Kaepernick has made countless big plays, and is a threat to take the ball to the house every down. “When those decisions were made, I kind of reflected on my own career, and I think that is what coaching is all about. I think that is what leadership is all about, that is what the business is all about,” Jack said of his sons.
So where will the Harbaughs be sitting during the game? Well, good question, because they don’t even know yet. One thing they do know however, is they are all certain to be wearing neutral colors. They have made it clear however that they will be sure to comfort the losing brother first, as they learned that the hard way after the inaugural Thanksgiving “Harbowl” last year. “I saw Jim (after the loss last year), all by himself, no one around him,” Jack said. “He still had his coaching thing on, and his hands on his head, and we realized that that is where we were needed. So that feel of victory and agony of defeat … And we know we are going to experience that next week.”
For sister Joani, her entire life has been in a coaching atmosphere. “I didn’t know I was in a coaching environment, I just felt that was how we lived.” she said. “That’s what my dad did for a living. Luckily, I think as parents they involved their kids in their professional life. So if dad had practice, mom took us out to practice, that’s how we saw dad in the afternoon. Or we sat down at the kitchen table and I’d color his scouting reports because he was working, so that’s how you’d spend time. I think they were no different than any other parents, that’s just how we’d spend time, it was around football.”
Joani is also involved in the coaching world on an everyday basis nowadays, as she is married to Indiana University Basketball head coach Tom Crean. In addition to that, she is also involved in the social media site “Marriedtothegame” which connects the wives of division one coaches across the country.
All in all, Sunday will be a tough and emotional time for the Harbaughs, and either way the family will have a son or brother to console after the game. The important thing to remember however, is that while one Harbaugh will be hoisting the Lombardi trophy after the game, the winning coach will be quick to point out that the players are the ones who made this special opportunity possible. It may be called the Harbowl by others, but Jackie says it best when she reminds people “I just want it to be called the Super Bowl.”