Why are Americans so passionate about football? Do we love watching defenders crush wide-receivers, running backs fumble the ball or field goal kickers wait for the snap with one second left in the game? Like car wrecks, some people get a perverse thrill observing those dreadful moments from the sidelines. At those times, though, my thoughts turn to those players’ mothers and fathers because on many different levels football and family are inextricably tied together.
Along with my sisters, I learned the game of football at my father’s knee. A small college football All-American with no sons, he shared his passion for the game as he taught us about its intricacies, demands for hard-work and determination, and loyalty even for his then-bumbling but still beloved Steelers. Under his guidance, I became an avid sports fan and eventually sealed the deal with my future husband when I could explain the NCAA bowl system to him.
Without intention, we have passed our love of the game on to our two children who could not be more different but share a passion for the Steelers and the Georgia Bulldogs and more recently the Clemson Tigers (my daughter’s school) and the Vanderbilt Commodores (my nephew is a 3-year starter there). As at my parents’ home, on game days the four of us together yell and scream and hold our breath and celebrate and console. When the games aren’t on, we discuss the foibles and tribulations of many of today’s notorious players and decide who will be our heroes. Though our football conversations may seem superficial to the intelligentsia, they bring us together on an even playing field where everyone’s opinion is respected and all are engaged. These conversations are often catalysts for discussing bigger issues in a non-threatening way, and they create moments of unity just as they did when I was growing up.
Super Bowl serendipity graced our family four years ago when my parents’ 50th anniversary fell on the Super Bowl Sunday that featured the Pittsburgh Steelers taking on the Arizona Cardinals in Tampa. My sisters and I gathered at my parents’ home for an intimate family reunion. Together we yelled and screamed as the Steelers fell behind and celebrated when Santonio Holmes
caught that touchdown pass to squeeze out a victory that felt written in my parents’ stars. Being together like that was the best gift possible for my parents, and while my little family back in Richmond was not thrilled to host our annual Super Bowl party without me, I could not have been anywhere else but with my first family that day.
This Super Bowl Sunday seems even more serendipitous for the new first family of football. Can you imagine being Mr. and Mrs. Harbaugh, parents of the two Super Bowl coaches?
What an extraordinary confluence of events that have brought them to the Superdome for this Har-Bowl. Though there will be lots of story lines during the game this Sunday, this phenomenal family piece will have us riveted.Gratefully, Alison & Ellen
p.s. Want to do something fun with your family while you watch the game? Download our Super Bowl BINGO cards here and enjoy!
February 2, 2013