Super win is one triumph brothers can't share
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013 at 7:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 4, 2013 at 7:35 p.m.
This time the brothers Harbaugh will not have something to share. They won't be able to sit on a sofa and burn through a beer or two in reflective and animated conversation. This time they will have to live apart, forever, never to be together. John Harbaugh will have to stand alone, at the summit of his sport, without his brother Jim, and it was clear Monday this will be a necessity.
“I don't think there will ever be a time,” said Baltimore's coach, “we'll watch the game (video) together. Absolutely not.”
That statement carries much weight. NFL coaches live in film rooms. Replaying over and over the same play. Slowing it down. Speeding it up. Pausing it at critical junctures. Screaming at the damn projector. The film room is their coaching box. It is the place where they begin to do business. It is as close to a fixed address that nomad coaches have, where family and friends and other coaches can find them.
So it was a deep loss John Harbaugh felt Monday. He'll never be able to share that intimacy with his brother. He knows their competitive nature prohibits it. He knows it would be cruel to ask, “Hey, Jim, come on over and let's see the game together.” That would be like twisting the knife. Sure, brothers tease and torment each other all the time — when they are kids on a play ground.
As 50-year old adults, however, the knife is sheathed. Too much real pain already has left its mark, real or imagined.
So not in his wildest, meanest moment could John imagine raising his voice in excitement and say to his brother, “Jim, remember this? Boy, I didn't see this coming!” when the Ravens' Jacoby Jones ran back that kickoff 108 yards to start the third quarter.
Sharing film is male bonding to NFL coaches. It's how they figure out one another. How they determine if this guy remains on my staff or not. Away from the cameras with prying eyes, they can be open, honest, relaxed and entirely opinionated without fear of embarrassment. The person the Ravens' coach would most like to share that with, he can't.
John Harbaugh knew it the moment after the game when he walked across the field to shake his brother's hand.
“I felt incredible elation and incredible devastation,” he said. “I'm still feeling it.”
In speaking of this dichotomy, John Harbaugh didn't need to wonder if his brother felt the same way. Jim Harbaugh didn't address it Sunday night but how could he not have been experiencing the same feeling? Incredible elation for his brother and incredible devastation as well. I'm happy for you, bro, but I've never been more depressed. Wrap your mind around that one.
We have heard the term “bragging rights” so much in sports it's a cliche. “The Raiders beat the 49ers for bragging rights in the Bay Area ... the Giants beat the A's for bragging rights in the Bay Area.” Say it enough and whatever emotional clout the term initially represented is lost.
John Harbaugh feels no bragging rights over Jim Harbaugh. They aren't 10 years old anymore. While he spent his Monday press conference thanking his players and Ravens fans, Harbaugh left the impression that everything he said was accompanied by his brother sitting by his shoulder.
“We said once that the only thing worse (than facing each other) was that one of us wouldn't be in the Super Bowl,” Harbaugh said. “And then we said the only thing worse than that would be that neither of us would be in the Super Bowl.”
The brothers Harbaugh, bound by competition. Sounds clean, nice and tidy, when phrased like that. But that was said before they played the game. Before things became very unclear, and not very tidy. When the 49ers committed penalties, had to burn timeouts too early, when they missed tackles, watched the game pause for 34 minutes when the lights went out, then only to be stopped five yards away from taking the lead in the final minutes of the Super Bowl.
This will be one of the most replayed Super Bowls in history because there'll be so much to replay. At the core of it were the Harbaugh brothers and the Harbaugh parents with John providing an image of his parents that only increased his angst. “They had it (emotion) stuck right up here,” said Harbaugh, putting his right hand around his throat.
All during Super Bowl week much was made of brothers coaching against each other in the Super Bowl for the first time. John and Jim didn't fan the idea that much. They didn't talk to each other. They stayed away from each other, letting parents Jack and Jackie ride point on this. It almost became a non-story. Then Sunday happened and what was once mere talk became reality.
“People say there are losers in the Super Bowl,” Harbaugh said, “and that's just not right. This game will be on NFL Films for years to come. Jim is one of the great coaches in the NFL.”
That's correct of course, but history does not care about such nuance. The 49ers lost. Jim Harbaugh lost. The 49ers are now like other playoff teams that finished the 2012 season with a defeat. To Jim Harbaugh, that doesn't feel memorable because it always has been about the bottom line for him.
John Harbaugh knows that. He knows but for the grace of God and those five yards, his brother could have been at the podium Monday, probably saying the very same things.
To the victor goes the spoils. Right now John Harbaugh wonders if and when he'll be able to tell his brother about those spoils. Worse still, if the conversation ever gets that far, how will he tell Jim?
You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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