For Seattle fans who have come to know and rue Jim Harbaugh, it was probably no surprise that the coach of the San Francisco 49ers did his best work in shadow.
Down 28-6 and in the handbasket marked “Hell: no stops,” Harbaugh brimstoned his team through a 34-minute stadium power outage — best tweet of the evening: “Now it’s the rich people trapped in the Superdome” — into what seemed destined to be the greatest comeback win in Super Bowl history. By a factor of more than two.
Trailing 34-29, but with the ball inside the Baltimore 10-yard line and four chances to take the lead against a fading defense, Harbaugh ran out of hellfire. The Ravens said never more to four poor play calls, and the coach who refuses to be humbled, was humbled.
We can only hope to be at the next camp site over from the Harbaugh family Fourth of July picnic in Wisconsin, when dad Jack banishes mute son Jim for staring so hard at the potato salad that it turns toxic.
Jim undoubtedly will win many more football games, maybe even a couple of Super Bowls, but Sunday night in New Orleans at Super Bowl XLVII, he was the second-best Harbaugh. And since Mom and Dad were in attendance, we can safely presume he was the fourth-best Harbaugh.
That will be his deal, ever more.
Brother John won 34-31, a deserving group of players and an overlooked city get to celebrate at the pinnacle of American team sports, and Jim Harbaugh — who has broken no laws, beaten no women and taken no illegal drugs, yet is the most unlikeable figure in contemporary games — will be left to sulk, stew, rage and kvetch in his gracelessness.
Moments after the game, John Harbaugh told CBS that the post-game handshake with his brother “was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” A graceful thing to say, but not likely true — the hardest thing always was, and always will be, being Jim Harbaugh’s brother.
In Seattle, the schadenfreude would only be richer had the Seahawks figuratively delivered the lance in front of the global millions.
According to the calendar at Seahawks headquarters in Renton, similar glory is booked for next year.
The Seahawks already administered a grievous regular-season thrashing in late December, beating the 49ers 42-13, their worst loss of the season — until Sunday. After the loss in the Clink, Harbaugh deftly re-energized his players to get three more wins that punched their tickets to New Orleans.
The Seahawks, you may recall, missed out on a 49ers rematch in San Francisco by failing to finish the final 31 seconds of a game in Atlanta, a 30-28 loss ending their season. In light of San Francisco’s very good but not overwhelming play in its last two games, Seahawks coaches, players and fans ache deeply over what might have been.
Which is why there is excitement about the Seahawks’ 2013 prospects that is the equal of any pro sports season hereabouts in a while. The best comparison is the Mariners’ 2001 season, which followed up a 2000 playoff series against the Yankees with a rematch after Seattle had won 116 regular-season games.
That episode is a grim reminder of Grandpa’s bromide about the best-laid plans. The Mariners weren’t up to the October caliber of the Yankees that year, and have yet to recover.
But we digress. What is certain about 2013 is that the Seahawks and 49ers play twice, have coaches whose personal animus toward each other can bend light waves, and have precocious young quarterbacks who lead teams of splendidly talented young veterans all experienced in the postseason. Everyone also is agreed on the value of the home field in the playoffs, which makes the argument for the NFC West division title all the more rancorous.
A weirdly fine Super Bowl ended an NFL season rich in surprise in many places, none more blessed than Seattle (take another bow, Golden Tate, for your “intercep-down”). Jim Harbaugh awaits, teeth grinding, spittle flying, arms flailing. Your ball, Russell Wilson.