If you are reading this on the day it’s posted, one of two things has happened. Either you are alone on Thanksgiving weekend, in which case I am so glad that BSR can keep you company on this quiet sports day (in between two great ones), or you are avoiding family so you can get your fix of Baltimore sports, in which case I am so glad we aren’t quite as irritating. However, in the spirit of the brotherly contest we witnessed yesterday, I wanted to share my own thoughts on brotherly competition. You see, I don’t merely have a brother, I have a twin brother. We grew up in most of the same classes, shared the same room, played with the same toys (why get two when you can “share”) and even had most of the same friends. For the longest time there was a rumbling of competition, though I am so glad that it hasn’t risen to the Harbaugh level.
Make no mistake, a major reason why Jim Harbaugh is with San Francisco instead of Michigan or Stanford is because he wanted to win where John was winning and exceed him. Jim has always been a little stronger and a little more successful than John, and it burned him that John was winning at the “highest” level (though that characterization could be disputed). Jim is like most of the great athletes of our day, ultra-competitive in all things. He wanted this game far more than he is letting on, he wanted to beat his brother. John, while slightly less cocky than his brother, has felt this exact same way inside.
I accepted early on that my brother was going to be slightly taller (always one or two inches), run slightly faster, and be slightly stronger. That was a tough realization as a kid, hoping that I would eventually eclipse him in height somehow, and while others didn’t see much of a difference, we noticed. I sure as hell know he noticed. We were on the same teams some of the time, but whenever we went up against each other it was clear that one of us was vastly better at whatever it was. But who was better was constantly changing depending on the activity. We used to play table tennis in the basement, and after a little while I took him out every single time. You have never seen table tennis as intense as this, bodies flying all over the floor as we used our “Bruner House Rules” because we didn’t really know the rules at first and by the time we did, we liked our rules better. I would emerge triumphant from the basement, covered in sweat after a half hour, and immediately hop to the shower. Will, my brother, would take it quietly but inside he was seething, as I discovered every time I would try to talk to him after the game.
We would play Madden or NCAA 04 against each other, and he would win by insane scores of 70-7, me getting frustrated with my controller when I realized there was no button for “Don’t Suck Anymore.” He marched up and down the field, occasionally throwing a really stupid pass right to the defender in much the same way as I would intentionally fire a ball right into the table tennis net just to help him get back in the game. It was not fun for either of us, since in the end it was a zero-sum game. Either I would soundly thrash him or visa versa, there was no real even competition in anything.
In high school he was almost continually in long, stable relationships, I was in many short, rocky ones. He would excel in the classroom and I would dominate my extracurriculars. I remember one day when our standardized test scores came back, my mother took our scores and put them side by side, asking us why he scored in X percentile while I scored in Y on this part or that of the test. We were both dismayed but more confused than anything- we knew that we didn’t share the same strengths even if our parents weren’t so sure. That was a moment when I realized that things had started to change. Over time we seemed to recognize each other’s strengths and work according to that. He would play quarterback on NCAA 04 and I started to play wide receiver or running back. We would defer to one another on singing (him) or speaking (me) opportunities at school.
It had simply become too much work to go after each other all the time. Besides, when you share everything (especially your personal space) it is kind of hard to hold a grudge. Some brothers, like the Harbaughs, manage to keep that intense competition. I think we just couldn’t manage to keep that fire going and thought it would be better to find ways to get along.
He is an engineer and I work in fundraising. Just has he has no desire to try his hand at asking people for money I have no interest in designing aircraft…
Okay, so I totally do, but who doesn’t? Isn’t that what we all did in grade school in our notebooks? He is just way better at math, but at least I am a better writer. But he makes more than I do, but I have gotten to travel more… oh damn it, I guess it never really goes away, does it? Maybe the Harbaugh boys have it right after all.