The 49ers coach, meanwhile, likes to hold things so close to the vest that he feigned ignorance when asked if he would see his brother in a social setting this week. John, though, let the family secret out, saying there were tentative plans to get together Wednesday night for what figures to be a quiet dinner.
“I can’t imagine what we would be able to talk about,” John said. “What are you having? I don’t know. What are you having? It might not get past the menu.”
They could discuss the kind of things everyone discusses about their little brother. In Jim’s case, that would be the umbrage he took at a media member referring to the string around his neck as a necklace, or maybe his appearance in the 1990s sitcom “Saved by the Bell” while he was a quarterback with the Indianapolis Colts.
“They asked me to come on and deliver a positive message to the youth,” Jim said with a laugh. “And for that I’ve been scorned and humiliated.”
The big brother stuff isn’t quite as funny because it’s hard even for Jim to make fun of John. How could he when John said he was sure he would be looking across the field at his brother during the game and thinking about their lives together and how they got to this point.
“There’s a lot of commercial time” during the game, John said. “There will be some time for personal reflection, certainly.”
They grew up as sons of a football coach, and they’re now in an elite place every football coach aspires to be. “Enthusiasm unknown to mankind” was one of Jack Harbaugh’s favorite sayings while they were growing up, and they’ve now got some sayings of their own.
The brother thing fits into it so well, in fact, that Jim paraphrased Shakespeare twice when talking about it.
“That’s my brother on the other side,” he said. “I love him and care about him very much. But they’re also my brothers on the sidelines for he who sheds his blood today shall be my brother.”
Slogans won’t win football games, though, and someone will lose this one. It’s not a prospect either relishes, but a reality they both accept.
They’re football coaches, after all. Just like dad.
“We both desperately want to win,” Jim said. “But we understand the other side of that.”
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg