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And don’t forget their tag-along sister, Joani.

Five years younger than Jim, she would run around in the middle as the boys threw a football during backyard battles of the keep-away game, pickle.

Joani Crean _ married to Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean _ will cheer them both from afar, thrilled that each earned a much-deserved path to the NFL on his own despite being the son of a successful coach.

“There are so many eyes watching this game, it’s going to be nice just to get it over with, too. Move forward,” said Crean, who planned to attend but is sorry she won’t be able to make it because of multiple family commitments at home in Bloomington, Ind. “This is one of those moments when, whether they’re a Ravens fan or a 49ers fan or a John or a Jim Harbaugh fan, they will watch this game just for the pure joy of the moment that it will be.”

Crean’s 12-year-old son, Riley _ a middle child with a sister on each side _ admires both of his uncles.

“Riley just thinks both of his uncles and his grandfather and his father hung the moon, all four of them,” Crean said. “He absolutely is into what his uncles are doing, and you never hear a negative story. That’s a testimony to both of them.”

Jackie Harbaugh taught her children to be themselves and take accountability for their successes and failures, to go after what they wanted. She also let them experience things on their own.

Her mantra: “Don’t do for your kids what they can do for themselves.”

“We are excited for both of them to be at this point in their careers,” Jackie Harbaugh said. “I think they’re both very excited and appreciative of where they are at this point in their life. I think when it is all said and done that day, it’s going to come down to the teams on the field, and that’s what we’re both hoping for. For me, once the practices are done and the preparations are done by both coaching staffs, it will come down to the players on the field. Besides that, which is apropos for us, it’s Thanksgiving. John and Jim, Joani, Jack and I, we all have a lot to be thankful for in our lives. … And the fact that we’re going to celebrate our 50th anniversary the next day.”

The parents _ and Joani, too _ are proud that both men reached this point on their own, without relying on a recommendation or push from Dad. If anything, John campaigned for Jim. “Knocking down hurdles,” as Jim, 47, puts it.

“No question about that,” Jack said. “Jackie and I were just talking today and we were trying to recollect back and I can’t recall at any time that I called anyone and suggested that in the case of them being athletes that they recruit John, Jim or Joani. I never can recall calling anyone on the phone and saying you need to hire John or Jim as a football coach. We never participated in that process. Everything they’ve achieved, it’s been on their merit. And once they got those particular jobs they were judged on their merits and strictly ran on their effort.”

Jim is quick to point out that he doesn’t much care if he has any friends in the league aside from those he works with every day, and his brother. His quick handshake and backslap with Jim Schwartz enraged the Lions coach after San Francisco’s win at previously unbeaten Detroit last month. No big deal to Harbaugh, who did acknowledge he would work to improve his postgame etiquette.

“They are who they are. They express themselves in a way that reflects that,” Jack Harbaugh said. “And I’m proud of that. I think you find so many different people that try to emulate others _ they try to walk or talk or express themselves in ways they think they should be perceived. The thing I’m most proud of of our kids is that when they express themselves it’s sincere, genuine and it’s them.”

As the game nears, Crean has a hard time envisioning how meaningful the day will be for her family.

“I can’t. It is kind of hard as you do get a little closer to it: `Gosh, my goodness, all this stuff kind of came together, why? Isn’t that coincidence?” she said. “I just think everything coinciding together is kind of a sign that we’re all doing what we’re supposed to be doing. This is what’s meant to be.”