Oh brothers, where art thou? Boring us at the Super Bowl

January 21, 2013 

Meet the parents.

Jack Harbaugh is a former high school and college football coach. He lives in Santa Clara, Calif., with his wife of 50 years. Her name is Jackie. On Friday, Jack and Jackie celebrated their 51st anniversary, but that wasn’t the highlight of their weekend.

The highlight was watching their sons seize the last storyline of the 2012 NFL season with the force of stranglehold.

On Feb. 3, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh will become the first brothers to face each other in the Super Bowl.

I don’t have much more biographical information about Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, but, hey, the week is young, and we’ve got two of them. By the time the coin is tossed at midfield of the Louisiana Superdome, you will know more about the Harbaughs than the Harbaughs know.

Did Jim squabble with John over the Monopoly board? Were they dependable with their chores? When Jim endured a minor everyday frustration – say, trying to lace his shoes with the aglet on one of the laces missing – did he throw the kind of conniption fit we saw Sunday in Atlanta? Which brother spent more time in the shower, hogging all the hot water? (I hope it was John. Please, please, let it be John.)

The answers to these and other deliciously suspenseful questions about the Super Bowl-bound siblings will be divulged over the next two weeks, and while some cynicism is natural, I can’t be cynical about Jim and John Harbaugh defying the outrageous odds of brothers coaching against each other for the football championship of the world.

Well, OK, I can be a little cynical. I got a little cynical the moment Jim Nantz broached the brother-versus-brother angle with John Harbaugh after the Ravens’ upset of the Patriots on Sunday.

“I know you’ll be asked this a million times,” began Nantz, “but what about facing your brother in the Super Bowl?”

Replied Harbaugh: “Congratulations to them. It’ll be a great football game, these guys against those guys. I can’t wait.”

Sorry, John, but you’ll have to wait two weeks, along with the rest of us. If the gist of your answers about the showdown with Jim is “it’ll be a great football game, these guys against those guys,” we’re looking at the next longest, most excruciating interval of nothingness since Kenny G’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the 1996 NBA Finals at KeyArena.

Before the Harbaughs occupy the main stage in New Orleans, some aftershocks from Sunday can’t be dismissed. In Atlanta, the Falcons took a commanding first-half lead over San Francisco, and – reminiscent of last week’s Seahawks comeback – surrendered it.

Unlike last week, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan couldn’t find enough open targets during a game-deciding drive. The 49ers jammed the receivers at the line and jammed them thereafter, risking a defensive-holding penalty with the astute presumption officials are less likely to throw a flag in the final minutes of a playoff game than they are during the regular season.

How did that rock-’em, sock-’em, smother-’em approach work? Judging from the disconsolate facial expression of Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez on the sideline, it worked just fine.

While Gonzalez was near tears, Ryan let them flow. When your nickname is “Matty Ice,” the room-temperature thaw is substantial.

In the AFC championship game, New England botched a chance to score a touchdown at the end of the first half, and never got over it. Despite a future Hall-of-Fame coach on the sideline (Bill Belichick), and a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback on the field (Tom Brady), the Patriots had at least one, maybe two, shots at the end zone from the 7-yard line.

But Brady allowed precious seconds to expire before calling a time out with four seconds remaining. Although a 25-yard field goal increased New England’s lead to 13-7, the dispirited sound of silence that followed the kick presaged a second half dominated by the Ravens.

So it’s Baltimore-San Francisco, and if you’re struggling to identify a sentimental favorite, you’re not alone. The Ravens used to be the Cleveland Browns. Their late owner, Art Modell, is remembered in northern Ohio with the approximate degree of affection Clay Bennett is remembered in western Washington.

As for the 49ers, a victory parade went through the streets of San Francisco 81 days ago after the Giants won their second World Series in three years. If the Niners follow the cue of their summer-game siblings, the City by the Bay will be the reigning champions of two major sports.

Hoo boy.

I guess it all comes down to the Harbaugh brothers. Lunatic Jim against John, whoever he is. We’ll find out. We’ll find out about the brothers, and the parents, and the home that produced a collision of coaches unprecedented in American sports.

Jim Nantz, on Sunday, asked the first question. Only 999,999 to go.

john.mcgrath@ thenewstribune.com

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