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.”