Bert Hammel watched the Super Bowl last Sunday like 100-plus million other people did. He wanted to see what happened after the game, as it pertained to the Harbaugh brothers, Jim and John.
But it wasn’t the post-game handshake he wanted to see. He wanted to see the coaches’ parents — Jack and Jackie — reaction afterward.
“You could see after their kiss and how much it was a relief that it was over,” said Hammel.
Hammel more than empathized with the parents’ relief. Two days before the Super Bowl, his sons Lucas, a senior at Central Catholic, and Cooper, a sophomore at Methuen, faced off against each other.
For a guy that promotes team and winning over individual accolades and stats — he has been coaching at Merrimack College for 32 years — it was a very difficult evening for both he and his wife, Jill.
“It was very emotional to see them both out there,” said Hammel. “They are best friends. There is a mutual respect they have for each other. I’m glad it’s over.”
Central won both meetings of the Hammel Bowl, 76-54 on Jan. 4 and 87-73 on Feb. 1.
“The first game, believe it or not, was much easier, probably because Central was ahead by so much,” said Jill Hammel. “The second game was much tougher (Methuen led at halftime). And when coach (Ricky) Nault put Lucas on Cooper, it changed the dynamic of the game for us, instead of ‘Go Lucas!’ or ‘Go Cooper!’”
Of course, there were no such issues for the participants. They had a ball.
“It really was a cool experience,” said Lucas, who is probably the best point guard in the region. “We grew up hoping we’d be playing together some day. We never planned on going against each other. It was hard sometimes not to smile and laugh.”
“It was actually a lot of fun going against (Lucas),” said Cooper, one of the better 3-point shooters in the region. “I always looked up to him as a role model. I’ve always thought of him as a great player. Last year I was hurt and didn’t get to play against him. So I was looking forward to it.”
Cooper also realized that the hype about his brother’s quickness was for real.
“He’s very, very quick and a great ball handler,” said Cooper. “It’s tough to predict what he’s going to do. Defensively, he got me one time on the fast break and he jumped in front of me and the ball went out of bounds. But I think I got him once, too.”
Lucas said his brother’s first step is as good as advertised.
“Cooper is getting better all the time,” said Lucas. “He’s tough to cover because he can shoot (so well) and drive. I had to focus a lot and forget he was my brother I am so proud of him and how he has progressed as a player.”
Jill Hammel remembers a time when her sons used to play against each other in the driveway and she needed to intercede.
“Some of their one-on-one battles ended a little badly in the driveway,” recalled Mrs. Hammel. “But honestly, they’ve always been best friends. It’s really nice hearing them talk basketball together in the backseat of the car.”
There was a poignant moment in the second half during a free throw when the Hammel brothers met near halfcourt.
“We started trash-talking a little bit. It was sort of funny,” said Lucas.
His dad didn’t know what was being said, but he recalled being a very proud papa.
“They were talking and smiling. It was a proud moment for sure,” said Hammel. “In the end, it was a nice experience for all of us ... But I’m glad it’s over.”