“I’m so sorry for your loss,” my Israeli roommate said when he saw me stumble in
all bleary eyed on Monday morning. He had heard the final score reported on the
morning radio news and, although he doesn’t care for American football, he was
sincerely sorry that my team, the San Francisco 49ers, had lost the Super Bowl
to the Baltimore Ravens.
As a native of San Francisco, I grew up watching
Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young win a combined five Super
Bowls for the 49ers, I had hoped that my hometown franchise would win their
sixth championship on Sunday night following an 18 year title drought, but
although the 49ers fought back from a big deficit and had a chance to take the
lead in the final minutes, it was not to be.
“At least they kept it in
the family,” my roommate joked.
It was of little consolation.
knew about the unique ‘brother vs. brother’ Super Bowl head coaching matchup
that pitted Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh against his younger
brother Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, a matchup many
sports fans were affectionately calling ‘The Har-Bowl’ or ‘The Super-Baugh.’
After pondering the main bright side of the 49ers tough loss – the fact that the
49ers have a young quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who possesses a rifle throwing
arm and quick feet which should benefit the team for years to come – I tried to
consider what life lessons one can take away from this year’s Superbowl
What makes these two coaching brothers, John & Jim
Harbaugh, so special? Before every game San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim
Harbaugh shouts to his players, “Who’s got it better than us?” and in unison
they shout back, “Nobody!” This is one particular lesson that Jim Harbaugh
imparts to his players before every game.
SF Gate reported that when he
was a little kid, the family’s motto was “Who’s got it better than us?” His dad,
Jack, would ask the question and Jim and his brother John would shout in unison,
“Nobody!” At the time they lived in a tiny two bedroom-house in Iowa City, where
Jack was an assistant coach at University of Iowa. Sometimes they had a car. If
not, they were walking – what a terrific opportunity to work on basketball
dribbling skills! Jack convinced the boys how great it was that they could bunk
together in a tiny bedroom and talk philosophy and share each other’s
“Who could possibly have it better than you two guys?” Jack would
“Then as you get older you realize that
people do have it better than you,” said Jim Harbaugh, who went back to look at
the tiny house on a scouting trip.
“That was the smallest house I’d ever
But the message was received, processed and believed.
message there was not having things handed to you, that things that don’t come
easy are really a blessing,” Harbaugh said.
“If it’s harder it makes you
better in the long run.
That’s what my dad was selling.”
forward some forty years to the modern state of Israel. Many American football
fans in Israel, including my younger brother and me, watched the 49ers and the
Ravens (and the Harbaugh brothers) battle it out on Super Bowl night, long after
our Israeli neighbors had gone to sleep.
But as the Harbaugh brothers did
battle on the gridiron on American sport’s biggest stage, in the Super Bowl,
maybe we in Israel should also think about ‘Who’s got it better than us?.’ We
too should think about being thankful for what we have. As Ben-Zoma said in
Ethics of our Fathers, “Who is rich? One who is satisfied with what he
Sure, things may not be perfect in Israel, but we live in a Jewish
state, with a Jewish government (elected in democratic elections that we just
now voted in), protected by an army of Jewish soldiers who defend our right to
live as Jews in our own Jewish homeland.
Yes, Israel has its
Yes, many things need to be improved, nothing comes easy in
Israel (this year’s Super Bowl was played in New Orleans, also known as ‘The Big
Easy,’ would that make Jerusalem ‘The Big Difficult’?).
But as I sat in
front of my TV next to my younger brother (both of us dressed in 49ers shirts
and hats) on a quiet Super Bowl night in the modern state of Israel and we
cracked open cans of Maccabee beer at kickoff, we looked at each other with a
smile and thought: Who’s got it better than us? Nobody!