Jack and Jackie Harbaugh had a lot to celebrate this past week. In addition to their middle child Jim’s NFC divisional playoff victory in San Francisco on Saturday and their first born son John’s win in the AFC title game in Baltimore on Sunday, they celebrated 50 years of marriage on Monday.On the eve of the 2010 SuperBowl, I wrote about a remarkable man and a mediocre coach Mike Singletary. Why? He is the only father I know who has drafted a family mission statement that hangs in their home. Today, I stand corrected. Whether or not they recognize it as such, the Harbaugh family has one too. It may not be formally written or framed but it is a lived reality, with them and San Francisco Forty Niner fans.
Perhaps you’ve seen it posted on Facebook or as the title of several YouTube highlight reels. But the Harbaugh family mission statement is actually in the form of a question, one I saw for the first time just 24 hours after their epic victory. Printed on the back of the shirt of a man sitting in front of me at mass was “Who’s Got It better than us?” This is not a rhetorical question. The answer was in bold capital letters: NOBODY! 2012 NFC West Champs. Undoubtedly, this is what the Harbaugh family said as they raised a glass many times this week. But it’s also something they have said for years. Rather than recap the story, it’s worth reading.
But, for the Forty Niner faithful, the answer to their question has been “everybody” for some time. But that also speaks to the reality of "Growing up Harbaugh." Jim moved 16 times before he graduated from Palo Alto high school. As Dan Brown writes, "In the early 1970s, the family lived in a ramshackle home in Iowa that barely topped 1,000 square feet." Despite the challenges, this family made the most out of what they did have. They were rich in love, they were encouraged to dream big dreams, find and follow your passion all while supporting one another.
Part of me wonders if perhaps the hungry crowd gathered to hear Jesus preach asked themselves this question before the multiplication of the fishes and loaves. Or did those at the wedding feast in Cana as they ran out of wine? or Mary and Martha as they waited for Christ after their brother Lazarus died? They should have. Irony alert, this is where miracles occurred and lives were transformed.
One need not be familiar with “the Harbaugh family mission statement,” to know in Niner country the answer to that question is once again “nobody!” For one, the Niners are featured on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated with the title “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise.” This team wasn’t even favored to win last Saturday. The Saints, a wildcard team on the road was expected to win by three. Second, the memory of game itself will stay with Niner fans for decades. We commemorated the 30-year anniversary of “The Catch” just a few sunny, warm days prior. Now, Forty Niner Faithful will reminisce about another catch for years to come. Third, we will host the NFC Championship game this Sunday. Because the SuperBowl is at a neutral site, this is as good as it gets in our house.
For my fellow Niner fans, I hope you savor this time before Sunday’s game. And despite Sunday’s outcome, I challenge you to live the Harbaugh family motto. Clearly it too is a "home of champions."
Who's Got It Better Than Us Logo
John, Jim and Joanie
Jackie and Jack Harbaugh