Big bro, little bro

Posted: January 22, 2013 by terryvandrovec in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I have one sibling, a younger brother. Circa 1996, we were both starters on the Jamestown High School varsity tennis team. Oh, how proud our parents must of have been, to be responsible for siring 33 percent of the regulars for one of the worst high school programs in one of the worst tennis states in America.

It’s a lot like the Harbaugh family, really, the clan that produced both of the head coaches in the upcoming Super Bowl. Think about that: Two Ohio-born brothers ascending to the top of their cutthroat profession in the very same year. Unprecedented. Remarkable.

Still, I’m not sure I could play for Jim. John, yes, but not Jim. That is, of course, if I were any sort of football player and I haven’t been since the flag football days. (And some of those performances may or may not have been tainted by some questionable knotting.)

To be sure, John is no shrinking violet – he’s plenty intense. And he has to be in order to run with the Ravens. Have you read about these guys? They’ve taken their religious renegade act to a new level this season, the last with legendary linebacker Ray Lewis. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports spent time in their lockerroom after the AFC Championship game and chronicled their unique makeup – they’ll smash you in the face, spit on you and then help you off the pile. What to make of that as an opponent or the head coach?

Part of me thinks that Harbaugh, who never played in the NFL, has no choice but to fall in line with the tone that the players have set. But he’s done one better, seemingly buying into the whole thing, recently telling reporters that something religious was going on. To be fair, that could have been a veiled cry for help, a hint that he fears for his safety amidst so many renegades.

Oh, and he occasionally smiles. And it’s a regular smile, too, not the kind that conveys ill will. That’s where Jim comes in. Who knew that this middling quarterback would turn into a force in the coaching world? He made Stanford, a school with unremarkable tradition and big academic expectations, a winner overnight and then did the same in San Francisco, quickly cleaning up the mess left by another former Chicago Bears player known for being intense (Mike Singletary).

Jim put together a fast, young, tough team and THEN pulled off an incredible quarterback change, ditching a guy with better-than-acknowledged numbers – former top pick Alex Smith – for an unproven kid from Nevada. He did so without creating any sort of visible rift, which was made easier by the fact that the risky move worked. There have been times that Colin Kapernick looks like a cyborg. No way a QB should be able to run that fast and throw that hard, be that big and buff. I’m still not entirely sold that a guy like Kapernick can sustain this style at this level for 10 years the way a drop-back passer can, but there’s no doubt the short-term results are breathtaking and potentially as rewarding.

Nonetheless, Jim appears to be wound too tight (at least for my unimportant liking), seems to be uncomfortably competitive and in a more in-your-face way than, say, Bill Belichick. Or, if you prefer, he’s the anti-Pete Carroll, another college-turned-pro coach who rubs people (read: me) the wrong way by being too rah-rah. And, yes, I realize it’s fairly lame to dislike a coach because he’s too into winning, but if winning was all that mattered we’d all be bandwagon jumpers. There’s no reason coaches can’t be judged just like players – we back them or boo them based on characteristics we find admirable or bothersome.

It’s working, obviously, because the 49ers are fierce in a way that I don’t remember even their most decorated teams being. They’ve become the ultimate little brothers – tough and desperate and arguably more prepared for greatness than their older siblings.

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