LITTLE ROCK — Offered the opportunity to score all the touchdowns in the two-man, indoor version of football, the younger brother jumped at the chance.
To reach the promised land, the all-time running back had to negotiate a narrow doorway to what was a back porch before there was a need for a third bedroom. At first, the older brother simply occupied the opening and smacked down the ball carrier, who was six years younger and many pounds lighter.
When the young one’s willingness began to wane, the defender offered to get on all fours, a move designed to encourage his bro to jump over and into the end zone-bedroom. I can’t remember how many times he almost made it before I rared up and caught him in flight.
Winning was equally important in the backyard, where 18 cans were sunk in the ground with tree roots and clothesline poles to negotiate and also when a pencil was used to whack a marble between baseball trading cards spread out on a rug imagined to be a diamond.
Brothers compete. That’s part of their DNA. The subject is front and center because the brothers Harbaugh are opposing head coaches in the Super Bowl. John is only 15 months older than Jim, a dynamic much different than the one familiar to me.
A 16-year-old can talk an eager-to-please 10-year-old into many things.
For example, years ago, the golf course at Burns Park in North Little Rock was only 18 holes and there was a ball-magnet pond early on the front nine. With a little encouragement, the pre-teen would take off his shoes and socks, wade into the muddy, thigh-high water, and move around, hoping to step on a golf ball that had descended to the squishy bottom. Big brother assured him there were no snakes, that whatever he thought was underfoot was only a stick. And, he believed because of the source.
At that age, he was already doing an Elvis imitation good enough to perform at the elementary school and was about to begin a baseball career that continued through high school in Missouri. Both gregarious and athletic, he was way ahead of his brother who still can’t do more than sway on the dance floor, had the throwing arm made for a Little League second baseman, and who ran through the umpire’s sign for “touch ‘em all,” the only time he hit a home run.
I don’t think I ever said I was envious of the Presley thing and his ability to track down a long fly ball in the gap. Hopefully, he picked up on the unspoken.
Knowing that one of our reporters has some brothers, I asked about competition in the Moritz house.
A sack of groceries was all that was needed to provoke a knock-down, drag-out in the kitchen between two of the siblings. The winner was the first to stick his finger through the paper that protected the creamy peanut butter, a grand accomplishment punctuated by a yell of “Tops!”
Being the first to open a bag of pretzels was also worth fighting over, I was told.
These days, the only competition between King brothers is on the golf course and it’s not often enough. The younger one doesn’t play much, but he remembers the three or so triumphs in 30 years, even claims to have a scorecard as proof. On one trip to Arkansas, we played so many holes that his back hurt to the point that he moved up his return flight.
Emails sub for the lack of face to face. We agree that I am fortunate to get paid for what I do and that he is unfortunate because of some company decisions.
A week from Sunday, the Harbaughs will go at it in America’s most-watching sporting event. After they compete, they will still care. That’s what brothers do.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.