February 5, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 42°F


Between the lines: Sibling rivalry hits sport’s biggest stage

Sibling rivalry has taken center stage in the sports world as brothers Jim and John Harbaugh prepare to coach the 49ers and the Ravens, respectively, in this Sunday’s Super Bowl, or as it has commonly become known, the Harbaugh bowl.

On South Hill, junior Ben Donnelly of the men’s crew team knows what the Harbaughs are about to go through, having competed head to head against his brother Chris, who rows for the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The brothers played soccer and ran track together at Walton High School in the Bronx. As chance would have it, the brothers went from being teammates in high school to opponents in college. The brothers both dropped soccer and track for crew to follow in the footsteps of their father, Tom Donnelly, who rowed for Cornell University.

Ben said he and his brother competed with each other in sports and in school, but being two years younger and two inches shorter, he tended to end up on the losing end of most competitions with his brother.

“We were always competitive, intellectually as well,” Ben said. “He was valedictorian, pretty much the smartest guy in his class. I was always trying to beat him in some aspect.”

Ben seems to take on the role of John Harbaugh, who was a defensive back at Miami of Ohio. John, like Ben, competed constantly with his older brother, only to initially fall short. John’s playing career didn’t live up to Jim’s. Jim started at quarterback for Michigan University and played 14 seasons in the NFL.

A victory for John over Jim in the Super Bowl may put his football accomplishments above those of his brother for the first time ­— just like his South Hill counterpart.

When the Donnelly brothers first competed against each other this fall at the Head of Charles regatta in Boston, Ben got the better of Chris, as the Bombers edged out the Tigers by eight seconds.

“There is always competition between brothers, so it just a gives me a little more of a competitive edge to go faster or work harder,” Ben said. “It was nice to beat him.”

If the Donnelly brothers serve as a parallel to the Harbaugh’s, John and the Ravens stand to beat out the favorites coming from the West Coast.