Super Bowl 2013 marks the first appearance in the big game by head coach Jim Harbaugh. The matchup features a media friendly matchup between two brothers, but the more telling story could be how the San Francisco 49ers head coach tries to become a champion after several close calls in sports.
As a quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines, Harbaugh had several successful years. In 1987, he led the team to the Rose Bowl, where No. 4 Michigan was defeated by No. 7 Arizona State. Prior to that season, Harbaugh finished third in Heisman Trophy voting for the 1986 season, finishing behind Vinny Testaverde and Paul Palmer.
In the NFL, Harbaugh came close to the Super Bowl on two other occasions. In 1995, Harbaugh played for the Indianapolis Colts and made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game. The Colts lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, leaving Harbaugh one game away from the Super Bowl. In 2011, the Harbaugh coached San Francisco 49ers also missed the Super Bowl by one game. The 49ers were defeated by eventual Super Bowl winners New York Giants 20-17 in overtime.
One area where Harbaugh has seen victory and defeat is Indycar racing. Harbaugh is one of six owners of Panther Racing, which was formed in 1997. In 2001 and 2002, driver Sam Hornish Jr. won the overall championship for Panther Racing. In 2003, Mark Taylor also won the championship. However, when it comes to the biggest race in Indycar, Harbaugh’s team has always settled for second place. The Indianapolis 500 is one of the biggest and most well known races in the world. In the past five years, Harbaugh’s team has finished second on four occasions.
Harbaugh called the start of the Indianapolis 500 the “single greatest moment in all of sport”. He hasn’t gotten to experience what a victory in the event means. On Sunday, Harbaugh has a chance to experience the thrill of a Super Bowl victory. Being second best still places you ahead of other people that failed to make it as far. However, in the Super Bowl second best rarely gets remembered. As Dan Marino can testify, you might never get another chance in the big game.