More than a Game: Football=Family and Love

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It’s a huge holiday for us today!   Last night, there was more anticipation brewing with my kids than a handful Christmas eves.  They are at the perfect age to appreciate what is happening with our family’s team.

I love football!  I have for as long as I can remember.  My sister and I used to torture my dad, as little girls, because we rooted for the Cowboys…vigorously!  It made our Dad so mad and I think that’s why we did it, as a sort of game between us and him.  Secretly, he liked it too, I think.  Why did we pick the Cowboys?  Well, as little girls know, the uniform is everything…it helped that Danny White was a cutie and honestly, we really didn’t know much about any of the team, just that my dad didn’t want them to win-ever.  I don’t think my brother liked them either.

We played football with neighborhood kids our yard, went to high school games (although then it was more about watching a boy we may have had a crush on, more than being interested in good defense), and watched Super Bowls with our family and friends.  Football has always been part of my life.  I did later transfer my allegiance to the Seahawks.

In college, I had to joy of watching “big” football…live!  It was so fun!  During the civil war game, our win was so celebrated (and unlikely) that the fans tore down both goal posts.  I saw pieces of those for months, placed as monuments in yards across town.  I got to see Troy Aikman play that year as well-his team beat ours.

I married a guy who feels the same way about the Cowboys as my dad.  My husband feels that way because as a tiny boy, the Steel Curtain was being made in Pittsburgh and a team of destiny was coming together.  He’s loved them for as long as he’s understood what the game of football is.

When we got married in the spring of 1992, he guaranteed I’d become a Steelers fan.  I said, “no, I don’t think so”.  I didn’t get it yet.  I didn’t understand the history of the Rooney family who owns the franchise.  Once fall rolled around and football season began, we started getting a little newspaper postmarked from Pennsylvania.  I ignored it for a while, because as a blissful newlywed, honestly I didn’t care a whole lot about football.  I still liked it, but I didn’t care or know about any of the players or any of the teams.  As I began to read interviews and articles in the Steelers Digest I learned who the players were, read about their families, and what made the team tick.  These were some pretty neat guys. 

I understood that football was a passion for my groom and I had a decision to make.  I was going to either become a wife who tolerated the game or a wife who embraced it.  Not only did my husband play football and love football, but he’d been running a fantasy league since he was 20.  He was in football…deep!   It was that first season I decided to become a student to my husband, the best football professor I could have had.  He’s one of those who calls a penalty even before a flag is thrown.  He has more football facts and trivia in his head than any 12 people put together-not only for his team, but other teams too.  I don’t know where he stores all the data that is lodged.

I know the game now, better than I ever imagined I would and I love it far more than I thought possible.  It’s part of our love story and part of my family’s history.  When I was pregnant with our 4 babies, there were some playoff games that had me completely disregarding my “bed rest” orders from my OB.  Jumping up and down was forbidden, but during Super Bowl XXX, Steelers Vs. Cowboys…jump up and down I did!   

Our kids didn’t have a chance!  They got their first jerseys (number 26, Rod Woodson) as infants and have grown up with football every Sunday.  They truly bleed black and gold now!  Our daughter was the last holdout, feeling rebellious against the game of football in general for a couple of years.  She and Andrew became a little more interested in football once Matthew and Mark started to play Pop Warner ball.  In Pop Warner, they were tough as nails and so fun to watch.  It was a very amazing experience to see them on the field, the tiniest our the 4, being born at 2#11oz and 1#11oz, respectively.  It felt miraculous and I thanked God during every practice and every game…I felt sincere reverence in their ability to play this game they loved.  They fought to survive, in the NICU in those early weeks of life and no one could have made us believe that one day they would be healthy and strong enough to play football.

Last year, Anna decided to join the team and begin opening her heart and mind to the gridiron battles, the joy of victory and the bitter taste of defeat.  It is a part of our life experience and happens in our living room every year during football season.  We’ve had many incredible discussions about life lessons because of this game and because of our team.  Now, Anna is arguably the biggest fan in the house!  Our kids brave the harassment at school and wear their gear anyway.  They are true fans and Mom and Dad couldn’t be happier! 

Some of my favorite memories of my life happened in football stadiums:

*Watching the Seahawks with my sister and brother in Seattle when our dad took us for a special weekend about 8 years ago.

*Being back in the awesome Seahawks stadium with our “M’s”, taking Matthew and Mark to their first Steelers game ever…it was my first one too!  We got to meet some of the players before they got on their bus (after a loss) and Deshea Townsend reached over the fence to shake Mark’s tiny hand.  (he was on Dad’s shoulders)  When the team was leaving the field, one of the trainers, who’d apparently noticed the lady who cheered the entire time, reached up and handed me his Gatorade towel…complete with game sweat and player dirt ( so I imagined)!

*Watching the Steelers play in the Oakland Coliseum…surviving the obnoxious crowd, we think, only because we lost. ;)  If some of the Oakland fans are that rude with a win, we’d have been bruised and beaten riding a train with them if they’d lost!  (most were pretty cool, though)  It was a great trip!

Football…today…we love Super Bowl Sunday…especially when our team is playing.  We have heard that they are going to be on the west coast again this fall…we’re going to be saving our pennies and try to go with the whole family!  It’s time for me to get this day rolling.  First we head to church, then I’ll start cooking when we come home and prepare to enter the football zone.  (The wasabi guacomole is already in the fridge!)  We received a couple of great invites to share in this awesome day, but after much discussion, we all voted to cherish this day’s drama as a 6 person team of our own.  This is a day that will be remembered, win or lose, for all that happens and we all “get” what it means to each one of us.  Thankfully, we have Andrew who is the least “rabid” to keep us grounded and keep it light.

Football is threaded through the tapestry of this Ronda family and whatever happens today, it is a GOOD DAY!

3 thoughts on “More than a Game: Football=Family and Love

  1. Adorable photo! If you don’t mind me asking…if you do please just ignore. How far along did you make it in your pregnancy? How long did your babies have to stay in the NICU? I made it to my 28 week before I developed Preclamsia, so they had to take the babies. They stayed in the NICU 9 & 10 weeks.

    • Thanks, Andrea! I made it to 30 weeks 3 days. NICU stay was 6 weeks for our 2#11 ouncer and our 3 pounder…8 weeks for our 3#3 ouncer…and 10 weeks for our 1#11 ouncer. How big were your babies? Wow, 28 is something else!!! They look so great! :)

      • Thanks for sharing! Wow, that is awesome! You did great! Molly was 2#4 ounces and Luke was 2 even. Thanks again for your kind words!

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