At the Super Bowl, super moms
Connie Anderson knows she will soar when her son Mark, the sack-happy rookie defensive end for the Chicago Bears, bursts onto the field for Super Bowl XLI at Dolphins Stadium here Sunday.Skip to next paragraph
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She might even watch the game.
Ms. Anderson admits she may default to her bleachers habit from Mark's big games back at the University of Alabama and at his Tulsa, Okla., high school.
"I know other people are playing. But I'll just watch him," she said with a laugh in a phone interview. "And after the game I'll say, 'Mark, did you have something in your shoe?' "
Joy Freeney will be zeroing in on her own Super Bowl son, Dwight, a defensive end for the Indianapolis Colts. Dwight toddled up to a mirror at age 4, Ms. Freeney recalls, to see if his neck muscles were football-ready. The quick All-Pro Freeney – now with a 19-inch neck – routinely draws extra coverage from offensive linemen.
Mama Freeney understands the tactic. But she doesn't like it. "They have two and three players on him every week," she says. "Why don't they try that on somebody else?"
The hands-on sports mom is a mythic figure in America. Meet some star specimens of the professional-grade version. Their public profiles are limited – sometimes by choice – to mid-game shots on the Jumbotron outfitted in oversized jerseys, or to soup commercials. But this is a (mostly) all-for-one coterie of women whose influence runs as deep as a Marvin Harrison pass route and whose mothering instincts extend to any NFL player.
"It's no surprise that you see [players] mouthing 'Hi, Mom' from the sidelines," says Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the National Football League. Agents can make deals, he says, but "we have found many times that if we're looking for a player to work with us ... we'll go through the mom."
Besides feeding their sons' teammates when they're in town, NFL mothers cook up a cumulative knowledge base. About 100 of them network through the 10-year-old Professional Football Players Mothers' Association.
PFPMA backs philanthropic initiatives and serves as a support group. Many members booked hotel rooms here among the rustling palms and sea-grape trees this week.
"It's my first [Super Bowl] experience and his," says Denise Wayne, who came down with her husband to cheer on their son, Colts receiver Reggie. "If he needs us, we're here."
"Even at the professional level, parents can still parent," says Frank Smoll, professor of psychology at the University of Washington and coauthor of "Sports and Your Child."
Like other active NFL moms, Sharon Stoutmire – Omar is a strong safety with the New Orleans Saints – finds herself watching over players other than her son. She saw Saints rookie Reggie Bush taunt veteran Bears defender Brian Urlacher during the Saints' final game before making a showy back flip in the end zone. "Be still, now," she recalls thinking.
And when Dallas quarterback Tony Romo bobbled a hold on a field-goal attempt to cost Dallas a playoff win against Seattle, she lowered her head and said a prayer. "If I could've just reached through the TV," she says, "I would have hugged him." She even finds herself defending Romo in grocery store checkout lines in her Dallas hometown. "I tell them, 'You go out and try that play.' "