Typical Harbaugh approach: prepare maniacally, outwork the competition, find something to fuel your competitive fire.
Not 49ers coach Jim. Not Ravens coach John.
No, we're talking about younger sister Joani. When she was in second grade.
Passed over for the lead of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, snubbed in her pursuit of Glinda the Good Witch, Joani was cast instead as a munchkin.
"I was highly, highly offended that I was not Dorothy or Glinda," Joani remembered on Thursday. "So I decided to memorize the entire play in case anybody went down with the flu or something. Then they could put me in there."
The Harbaugh family dynamic -- hard work, enthusiasm, chippy loyalty -- was on full display Thursday morning. In another first in Super Bowl history, the NFL arranged a conference call with the parents and sister of the two competing coaches. They fielded questions from the media, including one from "John in Baltimore."
"Is it true that both of you like Jim better than John?" said the caller.
In the nano-second before Joani recognized her oldest brother's voice, mother Jackie was ready to jump through the phone and throttle the rude questioner.
Jim Harbaugh, it should be noted, did not get on the call and seems decidedly less playful about the whole Harbaugh Inc. nature of the Super Bowl than anyone else in his family. On Thursday, Dad Jack told amusing and detailed stories of Harbaugh lore and seemed more similar to John's easier-going attitude. Mom Jackie prefers controlling the message, appearing closer in nature to son Jim.
And sister Joani, six years younger than John, five years behind Jim, tried to offer perspective. When told that John had described her "Oz" rehearsals as taking over the house for a year, she scoffed, "I don't think we have to be that dramatic with it."
But it is hard to stay even-keeled on the wild ride her family is on. Not only are her siblings -- big brothers that she grew up idolizing -- coaching in the Super Bowl, Joani's husband Tom Crean is coaching the No. 7 ranked Indiana Hoosiers. Indiana has three key upcoming games: home against Michigan State, at Purdue and against Michigan, when ESPN Gameday will come to Bloomington, Indiana the night before the Super Bowl.
"It's been pretty exciting," Joani said.
But Joani predicts the Super Bowl itself will be the most emotionless game she will watch in years. After a lifetime of cheering for family, she and her parents will be neutral. Jack remembers that Jackie was stone-faced during the first matchup on Thanksgiving of 2011. Joani, however, notes that one family member has a vested interest in the game: her 17-year old daughter Megan is pretty excited about seeing Beyonce.
When asked by one reporter if they favored John because he's had a tougher road than "blessed" Jim, Joani gave an impassioned defense of the middle brother's hard work.
"I strongly disagree," she said.
The loyalty runs deep between siblings. Her brothers always let Joani tag along. She was the designated runner in their games of pickleball. They bossed her around and were overprotective. When she was in college at University of Pittsburgh and got stellar grades in her first semester, Jim advised her they were too good and she needed to have fun. When she had fun her second semester, he reprimanded her for not getting good enough grades. They both advised her to never go on spring break -- it was too wild for baby sis. Though the boys famously divided down their Ann Arbor bedroom down the middle with masking tape, to mark their territory, Joani was allowed in to sleep on the extra bed.
The Harbaugh children grew up in the coaching world, going to practice in the afternoons so they had a chance to see their dad. Joani remembers coloring his scouting reports at the kitchen table and, at age 10, learning to splice film -- making sure to get the film right side up so that the player's numbers weren't spliced in backwards.
"She was the best hot-splicer we ever had in our program," Jack said. "The old celluloid 16 millimeter film had to be cut with scissors, cutting the offensive plays and the defensive plays in so that you had a training film. Joani would come into the office on Saturday and hot splice: boom, boom, boom, `Here Dad.'"
The Harbaugh family moved 17 times in Jack's 43-year coaching career. Jack calls his wife "the rock" and Joani said her mother was "a master juggler, back in the time when coaches didn't make great salaries."
Now Joanie finds herself raising three kids -- ages 17,13 and 7 -- and juggling a coaching life. As a child she participated in athletics -- volleyball, softball and track -- and always loved sports but declines giving any sweeping psychological insights into why she and her siblings all ended up replicating the coaching world they were born into.
"Our parents advice was always do what makes you happy," Joani said.
Joani, like her brothers, has adopted father Jack's trademark sayings, including warning her kids not to take any wooden nickels when she drops them off for school and asking, on occasion, "Who's got it better than us?" Who had it best in the Harbaugh family? Probably the little sister. As any girl with two big brothers knows, and I speak from experience, it's a position of privilege.
"I'm sure I had great entitlement as the baby," Joani said. "I'm sure I took advantage of it."
When the family would go on a car trip, Joani would sit in the front seat between her parents. If she sat in the back Jim would shove her over toward John and she would complain about being carsick.
"So I thought it'd be nice if they could get a little more room and I sat up there in the middle of mom and dad and had the air conditioner blowing on me so I wouldn't get sick," Joani said.
Her mother interrupted: "Wait a minute," Jackie said. "We didn't have air conditioning."
It's not surprising that Joani remembered a luxury that wasn't there. That was the gift her parents gave them: spinning their world to make everything seem wonderful and special. When Joani was a toddler they lived in a tiny two-bedroom house in Iowa City, Jack convinced his sons what a privilege it was for them to share a tiny bedroom, so they could talk philosophy and share each other's dreams.
"Who could possibly have it better than you two guys?" Jack told them.
"We did have everything," Joani said. "We had popcorn and movies. We made an ice skating rink in the backyard -- I remember holding the hose." Once when Jack looked at the two boys in the backseat on their way to elementary school in Iowa, freezing cold with their hats pulled down over their ears and long, sad faces. Jack rallied them by saying, "We will attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind." The catchphrases were repeated over the years. The lessons were learned.
"The message was always that things that don't come easy are really a blessing," Jim Harbaugh said last season. "If it's harder, it makes you better in the long run. That's what my dad was selling."
All three of his kids bought what Jack was selling: enthusiasm, hard work, chippy loyalty.
On Thursday, when Jack told his oldest son that his Mom was ready to go after the caller who thought one son might be favored, John laughed appreciatively.
"She's got that fighting spirit up," he said. "That's the way it should be. That's all I needed to hear."
Ann Killion is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @annkillion