by Marnie Schneider
Ed. note: Marnie is the founder of the Keep on Playing Foundation and the author of “Football Freddie & Fumble the Dog: Game Day in Philadelphia.”
Vince Lombardi said, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” Even though losing doesn’t make you a loser, it still isn’t the outcome we want, so you have to do everything you can to stay hopeful and keep a winner’s attitude. Here’s where the rubber meets the road for me: What happens when you’re a gigantic sports fan, never played sports yourself, and your team loses?
We suit up, even if we don’t play. It’s important, as a super fan, to put your best effort in, whatever that means to you. It’s a fan’s job to be supportive. I have amnesia when people are inconsiderate to me, but I’ll admit I hold a grudge when it comes to my teams getting beat. I like to believe that’s the fan currency: big passion means big grudges. And I held one for decades…
I love all live sports, and on Jan. 21, 2017, I took my kids and a few of their friends to The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Game in Los Angeles. Any game, any time, anywhere I will try to go so we can enjoy the competition of world-class athletes. As we walked into the food area, it was packed: we had heaping plates of mac and cheese and veggies dripping in ranch dressing, and those are not foods one can eat easily without a table; trust me. As we looked around the room, juggling plates and cups likes a wide receiver trying to catch the winning TD, a nice gentleman stood up and offered my kids and me his table. As I was thanking him for his thoughtfulness, I realized the “gentleman” was wearing Oakland Raiders gear: a golf shirt, sweats; you get the picture.
You know that feeling you get when you’re about to throw up? Faint, clammy, sweating so much you have to gulp down a glass of water and wipe your forehead to keep on your feet? That was me. I went from being red carpet-ready to a total hot mess. The plate of ranch dressing I was holding felt like a 100-pound weight in my arms.
Adios, super star receiver! I dropped the plate, ranch dressing flying everywhere, and now I was literally face to face with the man I’ve hated for 36 years and four days almost to the day. Suddenly, I was a participant in my own super-fan grudge match, one that I had thought about for decades. Only, he had no idea who I was.
This man — the one I had been wanting to tell off for almost 40 years —finally appeared and STILL IN UNIFORM (minus the pads) in head-to-toe silver and black. The worst part? He was so incredibly kind to me and my kids. What do I do?! I was missing my opportunity. It had been months since I thought of him, and my grandfather would always say, “If you’re not prepared, don’t show up.”
So do I blow it off and just play dumb like I have no idea who he is, like my life is great and like he never ruined the franchise history of the team I’ve rooted for since I was a kid? Literally My family’s team? (My grandfather, Leonard Tose, owned the Eagles from 1969 to 1985.)
So much time had passed that the average person wouldn’t be bothered by this. But I’m not a normal person: I’m an Eagles super-fan. I really was okay to just let it go, but it turns out I was ready after all when I saw this man’s Super Bowl ring! It was bright, shiny and HUGE! I could not stop staring at it.
Cue tears, and here comes the Super Bowl 15 interception #3 all over again: this guy was a diamond-crusted-patch-wearing Philadelphia Eagle killer, and he had to be stopped! I picked up my ginger ale, slugged it down, wiped my lips and said, “Okay, ROD MARTIN, that’s enough. I have had this speech prepared for you since 9 p.m. on Jan. 25, 1981, and it’s kickoff.”
As I mentioned earlier, my grandfather, Leonard Tose, owned the Philadelphia Eagles on that day in 1981, and for the first time in modern history, we were headed to the big game, the ball of wax, the showdown to end all showdowns to bring home the Lombardi trophy to Veterans Stadium. Or at least, we thought we were.
I let ‘er rip. For years, I had recited my speech to Rod Martin like a prayer mantra — as I drifted to sleep at night, in the shower, on the bus, etc. I just had to tell him this because I — and every Eagles super fan in history — had taken on the disappointment of the entire city of Brotherly Love. We were devastated from his record-matching three interceptions in that clutch game to help Oakland win, 27-10.
So Martin did what every winner does: he let me babble and ramble on and just sat there and looked at me until I finally stopped talking. When I was done, we both burst out laughing until I cried, only this time, my personal boogie man, all dressed in silver and black, was there to comfort me! 36 years of pent-up emotion is a lot for anyone to handle, especially a stranger! When I finally got myself together, he gave me some sage advice and told me to wear my grandfathers NFC Championship ring with honor.
“It’s not a loser’s ring; it’s a winner’s ring,” he said. “When you’re in those games, it can go either way, and while there’s a winner and a loser, as fans who so diligently support our teams, we’re definitely winners! If anyone tells you you’re a loser, give them my number. They probably couldn’t even put a uniform on properly anyway.”
What I learned from this unlikely new friend was that most pro athletes don’t recall the big wins as much as they can recite the last milliseconds of the losses. So, as super-fans, while we aren’t playing the actual games, we are important players: we cheer and support the people and sports teams we love! We are important, valuable and needed to remind these guys why they’re out there playing the game. So, Rod Martin, I guess I’ll say it: just WIN, Eagles! Go all the way in 2018!
For more information, visit www.keeponplaying.org/the-founder or www.footballfreddie.com All proceeds from the sale of “Football Freddie and Fumble the Dog: Gameday in Philadelphia” will be donated to A Level Playing Field, helping thousands of children get access to the opportunities youth sports provide.