Love & Football: One Woman's Story

Jennifer Safara Perry with her football BFF, dad James

Football is my first love; dad introduced us. I grew up loving it, and me and my father, James Perry, completely bonded around it. Today as a grown woman, my love for the game is still, let's say, intense. LET’S GO DALLAS! (Oh that’s right, my boys are kind of hurting right now.) But I digress. I thank my dad for making me an aficionado—all my life, love and football have gone hand-in-hand.

My passionate connection with all things football began at three, before I could even read. During football season my father and I watched every game together. An avid NY Giants fan (whom I nicknamed “midgets”)—dad didn’t push his beloved team on my big brother Jason or I—but let us pick our squads. I gravitated to the Dallas Cowboys and our legendary “Blue Star.” Jay was down with the Pittsburgh Steelers and their “Steel Curtain.” Storied franchises. Our epic battles began in the early 1970’s; I was up against both of them. Gridiron rivalries!

For 46 years, my dad had Giants season tickets, beginning in Yankee Stadium. Mom went reluctantly, and was sensibly turned off by much—the blatant racism of the league and the less blatant racism of some fans seated right next to them. At seven, Jason began going to games with Dad, two years later I joined. But those Sundays were about more than football. Those car rides afforded us precious opportunities to discuss life. We listened to jazz and pregame coverage. We talked, and talked, and talked. Years later, I’d come home from University of Maryland just to go to games with my father. In my childhood he drove, in adulthood I did.           

Whenever the Cowboys played the Giants we were at our liveliest. We built camaraderie with fans, especially “Lou,” a season ticket holder seated behind us. Years ago, dad bought me a blue Dallas Cowboys blanket with our silver helmet emblazoned on it. I tied two ends around my neck and when we scored, I stood on my seat cheering loud and proud, flashing my “Cowboys Cape” like kryptonite.

At home we watched games together too. He’d make a pot of his delicious black-eyed-peas, chili, 13 bean soup, or spaghetti sauce from scratch. We’d kick it over our meal and grumble about this play or the next.

Dad also schooled us on the real deal, he was disgusted that the NFL continuously recycled white coaches and quarterbacks with losing records, without giving talented Black coaches and QB’s a shot. Together we observed the gradual increase of these brothers, although it’s still not enough. (Currently, many Black college QB’s are forced to become wide receivers or defensive backs in the pros. Furthermore, the NFL’s overdue to have a female head coach. “Coach Perry” actually has a championship ring to it, if I do say so myself.)

MORE ON BLACK QUARTERBACKS HERE!

When the Giants beat the New England Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII, I finally returned the favor and bought dad a Giants blanket. I draped it around him during his final days. Sadly, he wouldn’t get a chance to experience the new Giants Stadium, opening later that year. My dear dad passed away from cancer in 2010. But he left me with a love immeasurable and a passion that can’t be tamed.

Tradition continues with my nieces and nephew. I’ve taken my niece Sloane, 13, a fierce fan, to games. She more than understands football—she keeps track of her own dad’s fantasy squad, and absolutely loves stats. "Auntie, did you know Phil Costa is the only player on the Cowboys this season who went to University of Maryland, and Drew Brees broke the NFL passing record,” she quizzes me. At games she’s all, “That should have been pass interference but they didn't flag him! That's the second time. He had his hands on him, and he didn't even make contact with the ball!"                       

Sloane was by my side when I went to my first Giants/Dallas game without my father. The surreal night was charged with memories. The stadium lights literally went out twice.

Old faithful Lou said, “We were all talking, we think your father knocked those lights out.”

 “You’re right, that’s just like him. Anything to keep us from scoring!” I mustered up. My ‘Boys still won, but perhaps my pops had the best seat in the house.

This weekend, Dad’s beloved “Big Blue” is returning to the Super Bowl for a Patriots rematch. Two years since his transition, I still feel him immensely. He indelibly ingrained football in my heart, and gave me the love of a lifetime.      

Jennifer Safara Perry is a writer, motivational speaker, and diehard Dallas Cowboys fan. She is the CEO/founder of Sacred Seeds Enterprises. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferSafara