Harbaugh parents neutral down the line

NEW ORLEANS - The parents of the dueling coaches in the upcoming Harbowl will be experiencing a range of emotions Sunday night.

On one side, they'll be as proud as can be of a son winning a Super Bowl, and on the other side, they'll be sympathizing for whichever son is the runner-up.

Jack and Jackie Harbaugh will even be careful about what they wear to Sunday's game between John Harbaugh's Ravens and Jim Harbaugh's 49ers.

"We will not have anything purple or anything red," Jack said.

As for where this Super Bowl ranks among family moments, Jackie has it behind some obvious ones, but not many.

"I would honestly have to say that the birth of our own children and then the birth of our grandchildren are the most important to me and this is like frosting on the cake for our whole family, our extended family which includes a lot of relatives," she said.

Jack rates it right with many other family football memories for John and Jim.

"All those millions of people that are parents out there, this is just a fantastic, fantastic experience and really no one has it better than us," he said. "But when you're in the process of going through parenting, the day that they made the junior high school football team, they said we made our high school team, you have that feeling of being thrilled for your children.

"They go to high school and they make the high school team. Then they are lucky enough to get a college scholarship. Then every one of those stops along the tremendous journey, the thrill that you feel, I know this is on a big stage, but in parenting, those don't rank any differently."

It would be understandable if along with the parental pride, Jack and Jackie feel some apprehension about how to handle their emotions after the game.

"The one thing that I do think about is after the game. There is going to be one winner and there is going to be one that is going to be totally disappointed," Jack said. "My thoughts go to that one that will not experience the thrill of victory. That's where our thoughts will be. We had a little bit of a dry run on this (in 2011) with Thanksgiving.

"We watched the game in an office in the Ravens' stadium. They were so kind to give us that privacy. During the three hours and 15 minutes, (Jackie) was comatose. There was no expression. Her face was totally lifeless. Her eyes were glazed over watching the game. Then the game was over and you just dropped your head and we went down an elevator and opened the door to the Ravens locker room - I mean, the excitement of victory. We've all experienced that excitement of victory - guys jumping up and down, the smile on John's face.

"They were just ecstatic and that thrill of victory, there is nothing like it. Victory, the thrill of victory. Then you realize that you're not needed here. They had so much going on for them. You walk across the hall, and you went into the 49ers locker room and you walked and you saw the players walking about. That look in their eyes, that look of not being successful and coming up short. We opened up a couple doors and finally saw Jim all by himself in this room, just a table and a chair. He was still in his coaching outfit. His head down in his hands and you looked into his eyes and you realized that this where you're needed as a parent.

"Every single parent can identify with that. That thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. On Sunday night, we're going to experience both of those great emotions. Our thoughts will be with the one that comes up a little short."

Jackie doesn't believe their mixed emotions will diminish the excitement for whichever son wins his first Super Bowl.

"We're going to hug both of them and tell them how proud we are of them and their teams because those teams are going to prepare well for this game," she said. "All of the players are going to prepare well. It's going to be a cleanly played game. It's going to be a fairly officiated game. That's, to me, what we're looking forward to in watching this game."

Said Jack: "We'll have plenty of time after, to tell them how thrilled and excited we are for them."