Harbaugh parents will allow coaching sons to take center stage

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Jack Harbaugh has watched his sons go at it for nearly five decades.

That's why he doesn't see any need to be there in person for Thursday's matchup between brothers John and Jim Harbaugh when the coaches face off from opposite sidelines with their division-leading teams.

Jack and Jackie Harbaugh plan to swing by the stadium for a quick visit and photo with their sons, then go to John's house to watch the game on television -- in private.

All they want to do is allow the stage to be John and Jim's, Jack said.

That stage has been set at sold-out M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday night. Jim's resurgent 49ers are 9-1 and could clinch the NFC West with a win coupled with a loss for the Seahawks. John's Ravens are 7-3 and leading the AFC North.

"We know it's going to be emotional. We're just not sure what emotions we're going to experience," Jack said. "It's such uncharted waters. We've experienced it in this business being married for 50 years and coaching 43 years myself. And football and basketball and all the other things we've had in our family.

"This is such uncharted waters to see two in our family competing at this level on this stage. We've just never experienced anything like it. It's not one of those things you go into and you have anything that you can possibly measure it with or against."

Aside from the game, there's another special moment the family will celebrate: Jack and Jackie's 50th wedding anniversary Friday. Everything has come together in one special, whirlwind week for this sports-crazed family.

"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 (Crean, their sister), 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."

This week, Jack's longtime catch phrase of "Who's got it better than us? Nobody!" seems as fitting as ever for this family.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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