Oh brother! The “HarBowl” has been contested and decided, with John Harbaugh taking home the ultimate bragging rights over his little brother Jim Harbaugh. In the process, the sports sibling rivalry game was forever enhanced and changed.
This year’s Super Bowl was exciting for a number of reasons. It was the last ride for champion linebacker Ray Lewis. A strange midgame power outage lent some intrigue to a game which was feeling like a blowout. It was also the first championship game contested from New Orleans in over a decade.
Yet, in the end, no matter what else happened, none of these factors seemed to override the Harbaugh family feud. For a week, everyone wondered what the game would be like with two brothers How would the handshake work? Would they speak before and after the game? The answer was a resounding yes, despite the tense and powerful nature of the close contest.
Given what you saw Sunday night, have the Harbaugh’s started the best sibling rivalry in sports? I think so. As far as emotion and passion go, you’ll be hard pressed to match the HarBowl across sports lines. Venus and Serena Williams have tried in tennis for years, but tennis will never have the widespread appeal that NFL football does. Edoardo and Francesco Molinari have burst on the scene in the international golf world, but have yet to go head to head in a major, golf’s version of the Super Bowl. Baseball (the Upton’s and Boone’s), hockey (the Sutter brothers), basketball (the Barry’s and Gasol’s) and even football (the Manning’s) haven’t been able to match this in terms of excitement and importance.
Because each of their teams are impressively built, these Harbaugh games could become a fixture. That’s the most exciting thing about the rivalry. Who wouldn’t love to see Jim eventually get his revenge on a national stage, or John try to avenge Jim’s revenge? For ratings and headlines sake, everyone would stand to gain. Super Bowl XLVII showed surprisingly well in the overnight ratings, as early CBS reports indicate a 1 percent increase in share from last season, making this the highest rated Super Bowl in history. That’s not a mistake. Brothers going against brothers can cause even those who deplore football to tune in. In the last week, I guarantee your sisters, daughters, wives or girlfriends asked you at least once about the implications of the Harbaugh’s going against each other.
These unique events always bridge the gap. Unless they’re passionate about the teams or complete sports nerds, many people can’t talk about what happened in Super Bowl 46 or Super Bowl 45. With the Harbaugh family in the spotlight all week, Super Bowl XLVII will always come to people’s minds first as recent games go. They’ll wonder how the teams are doing next year, and wonder if a rematch could soon be on the horizon. (Spoiler alert: the NFL will find a way to open the 2013 season with the HarBowl).
The Harbaugh’s have now not only cornered the market on football success, they’ve also completely taken over the world of sibling rivalries. If you asked people casually on the street about the best sibling rivalry in sports, now, they’d likely go right to the Harbaugh family and skip over other semi-obvious choices. Other games with siblings will now be compared to this one. That speaks to the importance of the game and the excitement of both these personalities.
“It’s very tough. It’s a lot tougher than I thought it would be. It’s very painful,” John said of greeting Jim at midfield for the post game handshake. In that handshake, what was said? “I told him I loved him,” John said. Jim’s reported response? “Congratulations, and I’m proud of you.”
Not “I love you” back? Not one of those contrived sappy, made for television sports hugs? That’s great. Oh brother, I’m hoping for a super rematch sometime very soon.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax