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Harbaugh brothers try to downplay Super Bowl matchup

John, coach of the Baltimore Ravens, and Jim, coach of the San Francisco 49ers, will make history as the first sibling coaches to face each other in a major professional sports championship, but they hope to keep the hype in check.

January 21, 2013|By Sam Farmer
  • Jim Harbaugh, left, and John Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh, left, and John Harbaugh (Associated Press )

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — John Harbaugh has an appreciation of history, and also a sense of perspective.

So the Baltimore Ravens coach chuckled Monday at the notion that he and his brother, San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh, will be making history in Super Bowl XLVII when they become the first sibling coaches to face each other in a major professional sports championship.

"I guess it's pretty neat," Harbaugh said. "Is it really going to be written about? It's not exactly like Churchill and Roosevelt or anything. It's pretty cool. That's as far as it goes."

A year after the Ravens and 49ers fell short in their respective conference title games, both came from behind Sunday to win on the road. The Ravens won at New England, the 49ers at Atlanta.

As of Monday afternoon, John said, the brothers hadn't spoken since their games.

"I talked to my mom and dad last night, that was a great conversation," Baltimore's coach said. "And just thanks to my mom and dad, and [sister] Joani over in Indiana. We just couldn't be more thankful. We could not have been brought up in a better situation. We couldn't have had more fun, and they're having fun right now. I can't wait to see them down in New Orleans. It's going to be a great time."

John, 50, who is 15 months older than Jim, praised his brother's coaching ability and noted his intense competitiveness.

"I think that's what made him a great player," he said. "It's what made him a good student in college. It's what makes him the man that he is.

"He's also really talented. He was the guy that in hockey would take the puck right down the middle of the rink and everybody would bounce off him, and he would score goals. He got every rebound and scored every point. The gym teacher said in fourth grade that he was too competitive, he needed to ease off a little bit. My dad said, 'No, he doesn't need to ease off. That's what he needs to do: He needs to compete.'

"But the thing that people don't see is how warm of a heart he's got, his sense of humor and how much fun he has. I watch his media things and I just laugh because some people take him seriously. They actually think that some of that stuff is serious. He's having fun, and he's just being himself. He's the same guy. What you see is what you get."

At 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara, Jim Harbaugh was already dodging Brother Bowl questions the way Colin Kaepernick jukes would-be tacklers.

Jim called the situation a blessing and a curse. To him, it's a blessing because he's proud of his brother and has a fondness for the Ravens organization, having briefly played quarterback for them near the end of his career. But there's a flip side.

"The curse part would be that the talk of the two brothers playing in the Super Bowl and what that takes away from the players that are in the game," he said. "And every moment that you're talking about myself or John, that's less time that the players are going to be talked about."

On that, his older brother agrees.

"It's the guys out there on the field who are actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood. Remember that one?" John said, invoking a Theodore Roosevelt quote. "That's what it's about. It's about those guys. The more we focus on those guys, the better it is for everybody."

The brothers shouldn't worry. Come Super Bowl week, they'll probably field only a few thousand questions about their relationship, nothing more.

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