NEW ORLEANS — Jack and Jackie Harbaugh are spending Super Bowl week celebrating the good fortune of having two sons at the pinnacle of pro football.
Once the Super Bowl between John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens and Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers has ended Sunday night, the parents know their first priority will be expressing sympathy to the coach who didn’t get to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
“The one thing that I do think about is after the game. There is going to be one winner and there is going to be one that is going to be totally disappointed. My thoughts go to that one that will not experience the thrill of victory,” Jack Harbaugh said. “That’s where our thoughts will be.”
Harbaugh explained that he and Jackie had a “dry run” on how to handle the postgame last season when the Niners lost at Baltimore on Thanksgiving night.
After leaving an office in the stadium where they watched the game – in private and emotionless – the first locker room they went to was the 49ers.
“We’ve all experienced that excitement of victory-guys jumping up and down, the smile on John’s face. They were just ecstatic. … Then you realize that you’re not needed here,” Jack said. “You walk across the hall, and you went into the 49ers locker room and you walked and you saw the players walking about – that look in their eyes, that look of not being successful and coming up short. We opened up a couple doors and finally saw Jim all by himself in this room, just a table and a chair. He was still in his coaching outfit. His head down in his hands and you looked into his eyes and you realized that this where you’re needed as a parent.
“Every single parent can identify with that,” he continued. “On Sunday night, we’re going to experience both of those great emotions. Our thoughts will be with the one that comes up a little short.”
The elder Harbaugh was a longtime coach himself, and a former assistant of Bo Schembechler at Michigan.
Jack credited Jackie for taking their sons to Michigan practices when they were young so they could learn about what their father did during long days at work. And he was thrilled that they wanted to play and later coach football.
Now that has put them in the spotlight in the Big Easy, where the Harbaugh parents were fittingly at ease as they sat – talk show style – in lounge chairs in front of a large crowd of international media.
Jack opened the news conference by loudly asking, rhetorically, “Who has it better than us?”
Then he and Jackie both exclaimed, “Nobody!”
It appeared well rehearsed because it has long been a family motto.
But when it comes to navigating the rest of Super Bowl week, they acknowledged they were neophytes, and didn’t have much of a plan beyond spending time with relatives and friends. They didn’t even know where they were sitting for the game. They added that both sons have simply urged them to make sure they enjoy the experience.
When asked if the knowledge that one son will lose will diminish their enjoyment of the game, Jackie Harbaugh said, “I don’t think so because we will see both of them after the game. We’re going to hug both of them and tell them how proud we are of them.”