Who's Got it Better Than Us?

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At the 49ers' remarkable playoff game against the Saints, the stadium crew handed out red rally towels with the 49ers' slogan for the season: "Who's Got It Better Than Us? Nobody!" When I came home from the game Saturday night, my kids saw the red towel I was carrying, and their faces brightened. Reading the slogan my daughter asked: "What does that mean?"

I explained to both kids that the motto means we should be grateful for what we have in life, and asked if they thought they had a good life. Both smiled and nodded their heads. Then I asked, with complete sincerity, "Who's got it better than us?", and in unison, they said, "Nobody!"

The phrase was coined by 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's dad, Jack. When Jack Harbaugh was growing up in Ohio, he would spend his childhood summers playing with his best friend in the neighborhood streets, and these leisurely moments inspired them to ask each other, "who's got it better than us?" When Jack was raising his own sons, Jim and John, (both of whom are now NFL head coaches), he instilled the same always-be-grateful mindset into them. Jim Harbaugh adapted the motto for his 49ers, and the slogan has become fighting words for the 49er Faithful.

Professional football is a zero sum game. There are winners and losers. In pro sports, losing leaves little to be grateful for. And yet, here is a 49ers team that has adopted a positive message that could have been written by Tal Ben-Shahar, the academic scholar who most passionately espouses the view that we should always be grateful. How cool is it that a football team's motto, borne of the head coach's humble family philosophy, can lead to a discussion between a sports fan and his two young children about gratitude!

The red towel I brought home from the game is more than just a souvenir from a soon-to-be-classic football game. It is also a reminder to my family to be grateful every day for what we have.


With a Perspective, I'm Arthur Li.