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Pony Express: It's not easy being an older brother

As we watched the brothers Harbaugh, Jim and John, face off against one another as head coaches in the Super Bowl, we had to wonder whether it's ever easy for brothers to get along together.

Cain, whose birth was the first recorded on the face of the earth, seemed to have his heart set on being an only child. When little brother Abel was born, the first sibling rivalry developed. When Cain couldn't take it any longer, he got Abel out in the woods and killed him. When Adam asked Cain where his brother Abel was, Cain uttered the question that has lived through the ages: "Am I my brother's keeper?" It's not easy being an older brother.

Joseph (no last name given) had six older brothers. Their dad, Jacob, favored Joseph and even gave him a robe of many colors, while the other six had to settle for the usual t-shirts and baseball caps. They didn't like it, so they sold Joseph for 20 pieces of silver to some passing Ismaelites on their way to Egypt, intending for Joseph to live a life of hard labor as a slave. I won't tell you how it all turned out -- you can look it up (same book as the Abel and Cain story). It's not easy being an older brother.

I know a family that has identical twin sons. When the boys were about 12, they got into a raging argument. One screamed at the other, "I hate you for having my face." That's one you won't hear very often. They lived on the east coast and we've lost track of them, but they're adults by now. All we can hope is that they're getting along.

I'm four years older than my younger brother, Buck, but at one point we were teammates for one game on the same baseball team. Buck got a homerun in that game and I didn't. I thought it was just a lucky high fly ball with the wind behind it, but it went over the fence. I was wishing it had been me who had hit that lucky high fly ball. The older brother should get the homerun. But it scored a run for our team and I was mildly pleased with my brother's success. But it's not easy being an older brother.

Now we come to the Harbaugh brothers, John, now 50, and Jim, 15 months younger. When they were just kids, they competed to see who could throw a football over the tree in the front yard. It turns out it was younger brother, Jim, who could do it. That seems to have developed into a lifetime pattern. When they got to high school, Jim beat out John as starting quarterback on the football team.

When they got to college, John blew out his knee trying to play football at Miami University in Ohio while Jim went on to be a star quarterback at Michigan. Then Jim became a first round draft choice and quarterback for the Chicago Bears where he earned the nickname, "Captain Comeback" for late-game heroics, while John got the first of many jobs as an assistant coach on college football teams. When Jim finished playing for the Bears, he too became a college assistant coach, but he moved on to become a head coach in college while John was still an assistant.

Later, they both became assistant coaches in the NFL, but Jim moved ahead more rapidly. Eventually, they both became head coaches.

Finally, this year, Jim's team, the San Francisco 49ers and John's team, the Baltimore Ravens, found themselves in the Super Bowl. The favorites, of course, were Jim's 49ers. After reading about the backgrounds of the brothers, I elected to cheer for John's Ravens. After all, the older brother should get the homerun. As you know, John's Ravens got off to a great start, leading 28-6 early in the 3rd quarter. About that time, the lights went out for half the Super Dome in New Orleans and stayed out for 34 minutes. During the delay, you could just feel the air going out of John's balloon. The 49ers came storming back and nearly beat big brother's team. But the Ravens held on and escaped with a 34-31 win. The end was unbelievably exciting.

After the game, the brothers met at midfield and exchanged polite pleasantries, but I could almost feel the tension. Later, victorious older brother John said, "When the lights went out I just knew Jim's team would make a comeback and the game would be a dog fight to the very end because my brother is the best coach in football and probably the world."

This was a very happy ending for older brothers in America and probably the world. As I said, it's not easy being an older brother.