Jack and Jackie Harbaugh are the only two people in
the United States who are set to both win and lose in the Super Bowl
on February 3: their sons, John and Jim, are the head coaches of the
two finalists of the American football league (NFL), the Baltimore
Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers.
While the whole country enjoys the game that is to be played in New Orleans drinking beer and eating burgers, the Harbaugh parents will have a tough time over those three hours, even when Alicia Keys sings the national anthem and when Beyonce performs at half-time. Whatever the result.
The brothers are bound to make the Super Bowl focus more than ever on the sidelines of the field.
On the only prior game between them, precisely on the family day of Thanksgiving in November 2011, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh went to the stadium to have reporters' most wanted photo taken, but they left immediately afterwards to watch the game on television.
That was the first match in NFL history in which two brothers clashed on opposite sides, both as head coaches. It was a milestone, but of course nothing like the Super Bowl in two weeks' time.
As back then, Jack and Jackie will not want fans and reporters to watch their behaviour for signs of a preference for one son or the other - even though they have been used to such scrutiny even from the boys themselves since Jim, 49, and the 15-month-older John were children. The parents always hoped for a situation where both sons complained, as a sign that they were doing a good, impartial job.
Harbaugh the elder was a college football coach and a historian of the sport, so it was always present over family meals.
"When you watch the game, I don't know what you're watching for," Jack told Sports Illustrated ahead of the first clash between his sons. "If something goes well, are you supposed to feel good or supposed to feel bad? I have no idea."
Now time has gone by, and he can at least think back to that first experience. Perhaps he and his wife have worked out a way to divide their hearts and their heads. In any case, whatever the outcome, their first thought will most likely be for the loser.
The clash between the Harbaughs is made even more attractive by the two brothers' different personalities. Jim, the younger brother, is much more emotional than John. They both feel that inevitable comparisons tend to underrate one of them, and they get on very well even though they have been competing at everything since they were kids.
John was waiting for the start of the game at the home of the New England Patriots Sunday when he saw on the big screens that Jim's 49ers were through to the Super Bowl he was still aiming for. For a second, he took his mind off tactics to stop Tom Brady and addressed a camera.
"Hey, Jim, congratulations. You did it. You're a great coach. Love you," John Harbaugh said.
From then on many neutral spectators hoped for a Ravens surprise win, which finally materialised. Soon afterwards, John faced the questions about his brother that are going to haunt both until February 3.
Jim has reaped praise in the current season for giving a starting place in the line-up to young quarterback Colin Kaepernick, one of the league's sensations, and for returning the 49ers to a Super Bowl they had not played since 1995. If they win, they will match the Pittsburgh Steelers' record six Super Bowl victories.
John, in turn, has built a hard-working team he has led to the final despite not having many stars. Quarterback Joe Flacco, with his long passes, and a defence commanded by the veteran and charismatic Ray Lewis, set to retire after this decisive game, are the Ravens' pillars.
In November 2011, John's Ravens beat Jim's 49ers 16-6. This time, again, one will win and the other will lose: only Jack and Jackie will get to do both.
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