NEW ORLEANS —Jack Harbaugh received a phone call in November 2011 from another famous football parent, maybe the only one who could dispense with the proper advice before the 49ers played the Ravens.
The patriarch of the Harbaugh football family listened as Archie Manning explained to him exactly what he’d be going through on Thanksgiving night as son Jim Harbaugh coached against his brother John.
And Manning’s advice?
“The advice was this, ‘This will be over on Friday. I promise you it will be over on Friday,’ and sure enough it was great advice and that’s exactly how it happened,” Jack Harbaugh said.
On Sunday, in Super Bowl XLVII, the Harbaugh’s will be at it again. But while the Thanksgiving night game was big a season ago, this one is even bigger.
While it would be easy to try and predict how Jack and Jackie Harbaugh will feel when all is said and done, it’s not. The hardest part is waiting for the game to end, Jackie Harbaugh said.
For now, the parents have been told just to take everything in.
“We haven’t talked anything about football,” Jack Harbaugh said. “We haven’t talked strategy, but both of them have shared this with us. ‘Mom and Dad, please promise us that you will enjoy this. Enjoy this experience. That’s all we’re asking. Please, please enjoy this experience.’ We’re trying. I promise you we’ll try.”
Sunday’s matchup of brother coaches will be a first in NFL history and so as to not favor either of their sons, the parents said they will not be wearing anything red or anything purple.
Yet, Jack, a former collegiate head coach, understands that one of his sons will end up losing the biggest game of his life. And while they’ll be happy for the son who wins, they’ll be just as sad for the one who loses.
“My thoughts go to that one that will not experience the thrill of victory,” Jack Harbaugh said. “That’s where our thoughts will be.”
At least they had the Thanksgiving game, a dry run to know what Sunday will feel like.
Jack Harbaugh remembered that night this week, describing the joy he and his wife saw in the Ravens locker room, their son John having just coached Baltimore to a 16-6 win.
Then he walked across the way to the San Francisco’s locker room.
“We opened up a couple doors and finally saw Jim all by himself in this room, just a table and a chair,” Jack Harbaugh said. “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.”
And if the parents are still having trouble dealing with the circumstances, they can always call the Manning’s who have watched their sons Peyton and Eli play against each other on several occasions.