Jim, John and Jack Harbaugh – The Quintessential American Story
Only in America
This isn’t a Super Bowl story or even a sports story: This is a story about never giving up and about the miracles that can occur in this country of ours when men follow their dreams with determination.
“OK, men, grab your lunchboxes and attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind—and don’t take any wooden nickels.”
So said Jack Harbaugh, then an assistant coach to Bo Schembechler at Michigan, as he dropped his sons Jim and John off at school.
Coming from Behind
As Americans we know not to lose hope when we fall behind. It’s not in our nature and it never has been. As long as we never give up — never admit defeat — there is always opportunity in front of us.
Schembechler once told his quarterback, when their team was down 14 – 3 in a must-win game: “”Damn it! I don’t care what we do! We just gotta outscore them!”
That too is a quintessential American attitude. As a country, and as individuals, we can come from behind and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. That day, Jim Harbaugh, quarterbacked a masterful comeback for his Michigan team and won the game 26 – 24.
That day Schembechler told his quarterback how proud he was of him. And in an act of kindness and sincerity acknowledged the more important truth, that his father Jack would be proud of him too. Imagine the pride his father felt as his son went on to the Rose Bowl and later to the NFL.
Fighting Back From Financial Adversity
Football, like business, is often about money.
When we are winning, money flows — but when we lose, it can stop abruptly.
Six days before Jim Harbaugh’s stunning come-from-behind win at Michigan, his father Jack and brother Jim, both football coaches of the same losing team, got fired. Suddenly the family was struck by financial adversity.
Both men could have given up. Neither did. And that spring, Jim was chosen in the first round of the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears and awarded a rookie contract for $1.3 million.
From Lunchboxes to Legends
This story could end here and still be a testament to the American dream. But, of course, it didn’t.
Jim and John both went on to coach teams in the National Football League. Defying the odds, both teams, the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, won their conference championships. And on February 3rd, the lunchboxes will become legends, as the two men and their teams meet in Super Bowl XLVII.
I don’t care who wins, really. They both deserve it, as does their father Jack who will be watching his two sons as they make history. What could be better than that?
Both men “attacked every day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind—and neither took any wooden nickels.”
As an American and as a football fan, on Super Bowl Sunday I will be bursting with Quintessential American Pride.
____________________________My thanks to Ty Schalter, (NFL National Lead writer), for his article on January 18, 2013