1-on-1 with Jack Harbaugh
Jack and Jackie Harbaugh joined their sons on the field prior to their Thanksgiving 2011 showdown, but did not stick around for the game. (AP)
The Har-Bowl? The Harbaugh Bowl?
"For me it's the Lombardi Trophy game," said Jack Harbaugh, father to the Ravens and 49ers head coaches who will square off for the NFL's highest prize on Feb. 3.
"I prefer it to be called the Super Bowl," his wife Jackie reiterated.
Jack and Jackie Harbuagh made it clear on a national conference call with the media Thursday every chance they could that they won't be taking sides when their sons square off in Super Bowl XLVII -- until one question from "John in Baltimore."
"Is it true you really like Jim more than John?" the caller asked.
Jack said he had to restrain his wife from responding to the gall of the question, until the caller was identified as John Harbaugh -- their son and head coach of the Baltimore Ravens.
Two Thanksgivings ago, Jack and Jackie joined sons Jim and John on the field to take photos and acknowledge the first-ever NFL head coaching battle between siblings. Then they left the stadium to escape the media spotlight.
"I remembered seeing the Mannings up in a press box (when Peyton and Eli played against each other)," Jack said prior to the Ravens' 16-6 win over the 49ers. "It seemed like the camera spent as much time on them as they did the two boys. I perceive the anguish that they felt in watching the ballgame."
Harbaugh anguish may be yours to perceive this year, as the proud parents plan to attend the game -- in neutral colors, of course. And if Jackie's in-game behavior is anything like it was that Thanksgiving Day, it will be easy to perceive.
"She was almost comatose," Jack recalled, "just a blank stare at the screen."
For the Harbaugh parents, it's the ultimate demonstration of what football is all about -- one team must win, another must lose. And what emerged for the family as the most important element of the event, is what comes to pass after the game.
Said Jackie: "At the end of the game, it's still about family and your feelings for one another."
Jack supported that claim with an anecdote from 49ers-Ravens I. "I recall coming down to the locker room. We peeked into the Raven's locker room where guys were thrilled. Thought to myself, 'We're really not needed here.' Walked across the hall into 49ers locker room -- quiet and somber. Finally I saw Jim all by himself with nobody around him. I realized that's where we were needed."
It's no surprise John and Jim ended up football coaches. By the age of 10, sister Joanie was the best 16mm film hot-slicer (old video editing technique used for making football training videos) that her father -- a football coach of 40-plus years -- had ever seen.
For a mother who knows one of her sons will leave the game a loser, the answer is simple.
"I really would like it to end in a tie," Jackie offered. "Can the NFL do that?"
Roger Goodell, you have your marching orders.