Harbowl Super Bowl: Ravens 49ers Game is Latest in Long History Of Sibling Rivalries


John and Jim Harbaugh are leading their respective teams to Super Bowl XLVII. This marks the first time in history that two brothers will face off against each other as head coaches for the NFL championship. This will be the second time that the brothers have faced each other in an NFL game. John’s Baltimore Ravens defeated Jim’s San Francisco 49ers 16-6 on Thanksgiving night in 2011 in the first game in NFL history featuring brothers as opposing head coaches.

Sibling rivalries are fun to watch. You wonder whether they can muster up the necessary competitive spirit as adults that you normally feel as adolescents and youth. Sibling rivalries certainly aren’t rare in competitive sports. We’ve seen siblings able to compete and perform at the highest levels in all sports. Serena and Venus Williams have faced each other numerous times as they vied for dominance of women’s tennis. Peyton and Eli Manning have competed at the highest level as NFL quarterbacks. Phil and Steve Mahre, twins, competed for the gold at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo in 1984. Phil won the slalom by .21 seconds over twin brother Steve and took the gold, while Steve won the silver medal.

Sibling rivalries are not just limited to the sports world. They exist everywhere including in some of the industries closely associated with sports. Take for instance the alcohol industry. John and Robert Cooper’s rivalry was so fierce that rather than work in their father’s company they started competing liqueur businesses. Their father introduced the raspberry liqueur Chambord to the U.S. However the brothers refused to work together in the family business. John created St. Germaine and Robert followed suit with a competing product Domaine de Canton.

Two of the giants of sports apparel were created via a sibling rivalry. Rudolph and Adolph Dassler are brothers who founded Puma and Adidas. Both companies are headquartered in their hometown of Herzogenaurach, Germany. The family feud engulfed the entire city, and was so fierce that Rudolph believed his brother Adolph accused him of being a Nazi sympathizer. Their family split lasted for generations, until recently when Rudolph’s grandson took a job with Adidas.

Gossip is always part of the sports world and two of the biggest gossip/advice columnists had a fierce sibling rivalry. Eppie Lederer and Pauline Phillips were identical twins that went on to write under the pseudonyms Ann Landers and Abigail “Dear Abby” Van Buren. The sisters battled for years as newspapers competed for their syndicated columns and didn’t speak to each other for several years.

There have been other sibling rivalries, actresses Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine, the Indian billionaire business tycoons, Mukesh and Anil Ambani and the most famous of sibling rivals, Cain and Abel. The rivalries can be professional as in the case of the Williams sisters, or they can be deeply personal as in the Dassler brothers.

The Harbaugh brothers are the latest to take their sibling rivalry to the big stage. Marketing groups are deciding on how to secure joint endorsement deals for the brothers. Adage reports that the brothers will deliver the first joint press conference given by opposing coaches in Super Bowl history. The brothers have fiery personalities that will be on full display on Super Bowl Sunday. They both want to win, and they want to win convincingly. After the game is over, let’s hope the brothers shake hands and move forward with no lingering aftereffects.