From his rise in success as the Stanford Cardinal’s head coach (2007-2010) to making the leap to the NFL, it’s safe to say that Jim Harbaugh has made quite an impression on the Bay Area. And with his appointment as the 18th head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, it’s no secret the 49er Faithful were looking for a savior. Move over Tim Tebow, it seems Harbaugh has offered some redemption.
And it’s much more than the winning record the Niners have maintained since the third week of the season that has kept Harbaugh in the spotlight. If it wasn’t the “blue-collar mentality” it was a post-game handshake that had a shelf life of two weeks on Bay Area sports talk radio (thanks to a bye). And just one week before clinching the NFC West, many Americans spent their Thanksgiving evening watching a unique event unfold. For the first time in the history of the NFL, the two head coaches of opposing teams were not only friends and former teammates, they were brothers. To me, the hype of the “Harbowl” was well worth it.Indeed, the most exciting part of the game may have been the pre-game ceremony. John and Jim were greeted on the field by their parents—Jackie and Jack, the first Harbaugh to be a football coach. The game itself was a defensive slugfest and the Ravens prevailed, winning 16-6.
In the aftermath, the camera flashed to loyal Ravens fans. My eyes caught sight of a sign a couple held; it read John > Jim. Ever a fan of a good analogy, I appreciated their ingenuity, I smiled at their creativity. Yes, the score verified this as true….and for the purposes of this blog, the outcome is no different.In the post-game conference John Harbaugh, the winning coach from the Baltimore Ravens said, “Running across the field everyone was asking what it was going to be like. You feel humble and grateful. It’s Thanksgiving. I told my guys we have so much to be thankful for. God gives us so much to be thankful for but the main thing He gives us is each other, our relationships. Tonight I ran across the field to my brother. He’s my best friend along with my parents and my wife.”
I hope Jim would have said something that thoughtful and introspective. He is articulate and enthusiastic; he is passionate and charismatic, but I’m not convinced he’s as prayerful as his older brother of 15 months.
According to an interview with The Catholic Review, newspaper of the Baltimore archdiocese, “It was (John) Harbaugh who revived Catholic Masses for the Ravens after several years without them. He also attends a weekly Bible study at the training facility with his fellow coaches. Even though Sundays are the most high-pressure days of his life, Harbaugh said it’s critical to make time for God.”
He believes mass is “a way to honor God and praise God. You just humble yourself a little bit before God and let God know that these things we do are for you.”
And he’s right. When I think of 49er Faithful, I hope it means those who are loyal to both the 2011 NFC West Champs but also to something more. Jim has guided this team to victory; he has helped us believe in a team again—one that that hasn’t won in 9 years. His brother has certainly emerged as a leader on the field and off with his dedication to his faith, gratitude, and humility before the Lord. What Jim has to offer, time will tell.
John is greater than Jim