In case you haven’t heard, the Harbaugh brothers – John and Jim – are coaching teams in Sunday’s Super Bowl. It’s a big deal because we know about the history of brothers, some of whom have fought to the death in a battle for superiority.
But that’s not the norm, thank goodness. After Sunday’s game is over, we all expect John and Jim to pat one another on the back and return to the kind of tranquility that makes their parents proud.
We do expect that, right?
Well, when Derrick and Clint Rider, brothers who coach rival high school football teams at Riverton and Southeast-Cherokee, met at midfield after a 2012 game between the two Class 3A district rivals, players from the teams were a little chippy. That made the brothers a little chippy and the whole thing got a little crazy.
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“He told me he wasn’t happy and I told him I wasn’t happy,’’ said Derrick, whose Riverton team lost 49-28.
The brothers eventually got their players calmed down, then they got themselves calmed down. Brotherly love finally prevailed.
It was the second meeting of the Rider brothers; Derrick’s Riverton team beat Clint’s Southeast-Cherokee team 62-12 in 2011. They’re 1-1 against one another, which is just how their father, Steve, likes it.
Brother against brother has all kinds of implications, and not many of them are good. In the wrong hands, family harmony is threatened. And that, of course, could lead to a dysfunctional gathering at Christmas.
But the Rider brothers – at 28, Derrick is three years older than Clint – have not let their football wars lead to family skirmishes.
Both were quarterbacks at SE-Cherokee and Derrick went on to play fullback at Pittsburg State. Clint’s college football career at Hutchinson Community College was cut short because of a bum shoulder that required three surgeries.
They admit to being highly competitive people, which means neither cares much for losing.
“It’s a little more of a curse having to play against Derrick than it is a blessing,’’ Clint Rider said. “You want to compete and win the game, but at the end of the day you don’t want to lose and you don’t want your brother to lose, either.’’
But somebody loses. That’s just the way it goes.
“Derek won the first time,’’ said their dad, who raised his three sons – the oldest, Aaron, is a teacher and coach at Columbus – on a farm near Cherokee. “So I guess maybe – and I’m not sure I want this in the paper – you might kind of root for the one that hasn’t won.’’
Neither of the Harbaugh brothers has a Super Bowl victory, so their mom and dad are especially torn, Steve Rider suspects.
The Rider brothers got their competitive streaks from, of course, one another. They mixed it up in sports as kids, always looking for an upper hand. And, of course, it was the little brother, Clint, who lost most of the battles.
“Derrick taught me a lot of things about competition and discipline and how to lead,’’ Clint Rider said.
When they weren’t helping their dad on the farm, they were playing sports.
“Sometimes it was the only thing to do,’’ Derrick Rider said. “You go to the weight room and things like that.’’
They played together for one season at SE-Cherokee, when Derrick was a senior and Clint was a freshman. It was Derrick’s final season as a quarterback and Clint replaced him.
The question had to be asked. Who was better?
“I think I may have passed for more yards,’’ Derrick said. “But Clint’s teams had better runs in the playoffs. I would have sacrificed a few of my passing yards for some more wins.’’
Clint was equally tactful in his answer.
“I think Derrick was the better quarterback as far as what he was able to do within the offense,’’ he said. “He was better over three seasons than I was over three seasons.’’
Both played defense, too.
“I’m probably able to stand a little taller on the defensive side,’’ Clint said.
While both are ultra-competitive, Clint says he has a little more fire down below than his brother. Not that it’s always a good thing.
Clint compares Derrick to the more-reserved, contemplative John Harbaugh, while he shares Jim Harbaugh’s frantic persona. Fitting, then, that Derrick is siding with Baltimore in Sunday’s Super Bowl, while Clint will pull for the 49ers.
“Derrick has always been able to keep his emotions in check,’’ Clint said. “He holds his cards to his chest a little better than I do.’’
Derrick said he usually pulls for the underdog, and Sunday that’s the Ravens.
They won’t be watching the Super Bowl together. Don’t read too much into that, but it’s probably for the best.
Derrick said he’ll watch at home with some friends from church and their kids. He thinks Clint will be stay home to watch the game, too.
“I’m sure if we were together, some of the feelings from our games might come up,’’ Derrick said.
One set of football-coaching brothers in the same place is probably enough.