If you asked me when I was younger if my mom liked sports, I would say no. Actually, maybe something more like, “Are you kidding? Absolutely not.” — I was sassy.
She wasn’t a die-hard Yankees fan, or a Sunday-is-for-football kind of mom. If the New York Giants game was on, she would prefer watching the home improvement network or a movie. If I asked her to sit on the bleachers of Yankee Stadium in the dead heat of summer, she would probably roll her eyes in response. If she watched the Super Bowl, it was mostly for the commercials. Don’t get me wrong, she is athletic and has the half-marathon medals to prove it, but she never considered herself a sports fan.
That is, not until I became one.
When I got a bit older, I fell in love with the game of soccer. I played for my club team and watched as many professional games as I could, idolizing Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm along the way. As I developed an interest in soccer as both a player and a fan, my passion for other professional sports began to grow alongside it. I loved Victor Cruz, Eli Manning and Derek Jeter.
And then, suddenly, so did my mom.
She read up on the U.S. Women’s National Team, spent her Sundays watching Giants games and bought me FC Barcelona jerseys. Once, when I was 11, she skipped work to wait in line with me to meet Jozy Altidore — someone whose name she had never heard two years earlier — and get my soccer ball signed. She even invited Wambach to dinner when she ran into her on the street. My mom did everything she could to support my passion, and that included becoming a sports fan for me.
But that’s just who she is. She did the same thing with my brother Keely and his love of music. She was determined to connect with her kids on what mattered most to them. She took me to countless New York Red Bulls and U.S. Women’s National Team games. When we sat in the stands, she cheered just as enthusiastically as me and always made sure to stop by the box office on the way out to get physical tickets to keep as a memento.
She cheered even louder from the sidelines. I could hear her shouts above all the other parents’ as I dashed up the field during my games. She would sit through countless road trips, sacrifice her weekends for my tournaments and stay up for late-night soccer practices. And she did so without grievance. Never a complaint, never a sigh or a doubt. It was always, “You made a commitment, Remi.” She would never let me quit — and I’m so thankful for that because without her, I probably would have.
Despite my run-of-the-mill skills and outrageous attitude on the soccer field, my mom never missed a single game. Even when I would grumble and moan as I slouched my way to the car at 7 a.m., she came. Even after undergoing back surgery on a Friday, she shuffled her way onto the field and into her fold-up chair to cheer me on the following Sunday morning. That’s exactly the kind of woman she is and exactly the kind of woman she raised me to be.
To be resilient.
When I got into the University of Michigan, I was so excited to go to a big sports school — something my high school had lacked. And just as she learned to love soccer all those years ago, my mom became a Wolverines fan overnight.
She is the first to holler “Go Blue” on the streets when she sees a block ‘M,’ and every autumn Saturday, you’ll find her in her Michigan t-shirt and baseball cap cheering on the football team. Jim Harbaugh, J.J. McCarthy and Blake Corum are frequent topics of conversation. Every Sunday phone call included a rundown of Michigan’s best and worst moments from the day prior.
When she visits me in Ann Arbor, the Michigan fan she has grown into gets to shine. Her first stop every trip is The M Den for fresh gear. Then, she sits through a football game — the first half at least — whether it’s 20 degrees and snowing or 90 degrees and humid, and ends the day texting friends and family, raving about her gameday.
Every Saturday in the fall you’ll find her decked out in maize, a color she wouldn’t be caught dead in four years ago. On Sundays, you’ll find her watching the Giants with her legs up and maybe some sprinklings of basketball and baseball during the week. Her love of sports started because of me, but now she is a fan all on her own.
But the passion with which I love sports, and everything else in life, is all hers. She shared her immense aptitude to care and love with me, and I traded her the fandom of sports. Our relationship was strengthened by that shared passion.
I stopped being surprised a while ago when my mom would rattle off a random sports statistic or tell me she’s watching the Giants game or the U.S. Open. That’s how my mom shows me she loves me, by loving what I love.
Maybe I didn’t understand that when I was younger — maybe most kids don’t understand how their parents choose to love them. Just because it isn’t what we expected doesn’t mean it’s not what we needed. I don’t think I would be as caring if it wasn’t for her, and I might not have become as big of a sports fan if her passion hadn’t shown me it was okay.
I always wear this one particular New York Giants hat. It’s gray turning green and I’m not even sure what color it originally was, but it’s a source of constant comfort resting on my head. And that’s because it was my mom’s. She gave it to me just like she gave me my determination, my work ethic and my perseverance.
My mom always tells me one thing anytime she sees my confidence begin to wane.
“Beautiful girl, you can do hard things.” And I can because she taught me how.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Thank you for being my biggest fan.
Statement Contributor Remi Williamson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org