I really feel for Jackie Harbaugh. She’s the mother of the two coaches facing off against each other in Super Bowl XLVII this Sunday.
John, coach of the Baltimore Ravens, is fifteen months older than Jim, who will direct the San Francisco 49ers.
As a mother of two sons myself, I can’t think of anything much worse.
I grew up with two younger sisters, so I’m very familiar with the nature of sibling rivalry among sisters. As my parents’ favorite child (it’s my blog—if they disagree they can write their own), I’m well aware of the slings and arrows of sibling rivalry. You love them, but you never want them to beat you at anything. As long as you’re on top (or you think you are), everything’s great.
I’m learning that brothers are a totally different animal. With girls, losing to each other is upsetting but generally forgivable. With boys, it’s almost catastrophic. We’re talking Napoleon at Waterloo.
Almost anything can unleash it. Who’s taller? Who made the best grades this semester? Who won Monopoly? It takes any of the joy out of growing or learning or accomplishing anything because each sees some metric by which to measure each other.
Playing sports against each other harbors the greatest danger.
Today, for example, it was decided at my house that the boys can only play tennis against each other on our backyard sport court if an official umpire is present. Evidently, too many recent matches resulted in cheating (according to my youngest son) and threats of bodily injury (according to the oldest one). We’re just asking for trouble if we permit another match unattended.
I am pleased that they both like the Texas Rangers. That way, we all win or lose together. We’re not so lucky on the football front. My oldest son is a Dallas Cowboys fan. The youngest loves the New York Giants. For those who don’t know much about the NFL, those two teams are bitter rivals in the NFC East. Both boys each own luggage for their respective teams. A bellman at Disney World once unloaded our car, looked at the luggage, smiled and said, “Wow! I bet it gets real interesting at your house.”
This Super Bowl Sunday, we’re very fortunate. Both boys are cheering for the Ravens. It will make my life so much easier.
Not so for poor Mrs. Harbaugh.
Last year, her sons played against each other on Thanksgiving Day. The Ravens won 16-6.
As her husband, Jack, described her watching that game, “I’ve never seen Jackie experience that in a ballgame. She just stared at the screen, no facial emotion whatsoever; just a blank stare, not a word spoken.”
For this game, Jackie promises to wear neutral colors. The Ravens official colors are purple, black, metallic gold, and white. The 49ers are Cardinal red and metallic gold. If she manages to wear all these colors together, at least she won’t look too out of place. The game is in New Orleans after all.
“I know one is going to win and one is going to lose,” she said in an interview, “but I would really like it to end in a tie.”
As a mother of boys, I know exactly what she means.