As the nation obsesses over the Super Bowl this week, there is a Fort Myers Beach, Fla., couple even more interested than most people.
Frank and Fran Foust live the quiet old Florida lifestyle for about six months every year. They own a small RV permanently parked at the Ebb Tide RV Park on San Carlos Island, the kind of place where retired folks ride bicycles and drive cars bearing plates from Ohio, Michigan and other points Midwest. It’s a quiet, well-kept place off the beaten path but only a short walk from the hustle and bustle of the beachfront tourist crowds, according to the Naples Daily News.
Usually. This week there’s an air of anticipation as Ben Roethlisberger’s grandparents get ready to watch the Steelers starting quarterback try for his second NFL title.
“I’m a nervous wreck (watching the game),” said Grandma Fran, who turns 72 Friday. “I’m a mess. My husband is even worse. He can’t hardly eat.”
There’s a party planned for Super Bowl Sunday at the park. The Fousts are going, but Grandma admits that if the game is a close one or if the crowd is too noisy, she won’t be there.
“If it’s too loud or if they’re losing, I’ll sneak home,” she said.
The tidy little RV is decorated with Steelers banners and other paraphernalia, of course, plus pictures of Big Ben when he was Little Ben. Six-month-old Ben wearing a “Little Quarterback” shirt and holding a football nearly as big as he is. Ben the high school star standing between Grandma and Grandpa in his uniform.
Ben’s First Spring Break Spent in RV
It was about that time – a year later – when Roethlisberger and two friends spent Spring Break in the little RV.
“Ben stayed here his first Spring Break in college,” Fran said. “Ben and two buddies, my husband and I and another couple.”
It was crowded, she said, but then the rest of the household was usually asleep by the time Ben and his friends got home at night.
Frank, also 72, said that when Ben was playing in high school in Findlay, Ohio, he’d hoped to see his grandson play at Ohio State. That seems clear from the Buckeye jacket grandpa sports in the picture.
Instead, Ben opted for Miami of Ohio.
“He made that very clear he wasn’t going to Ohio State,” Frank said. “He made a good choice, whatever his reason was.”
Fran said she never imagined her grandson would play in the National Football League until she was watching him play in college.
“It never dawned on me,” she said. “Then I heard an announcer say, ‘We’ll be watching him on Sunday.'”
The Fousts said it’s been a while since they’ve spoken to their famous grandson, and they know better to call during Super Bowl Week. Fran said she did call and leave a grandmotherly message telling Big Ben how happy they are and how proud they are of him.
“We spoke to him right after the Dallas game,” Fran said. “He called us. We don’t get to talk too often because he’s very busy.”
The first time Roethlisberger played in the Super Bowl it was played in Detroit in 2006.
“We looked at the weather and said ‘No’,” she said.
Grandparents to Stay Home for Big Game
This time around the game is in Tampa, but the Fousts are staying at Ebb Tide. There’s a big screen TV in the clubhouse, and their own small home-away-from-home is close enough for an escape if it gets too tense.
“If they lose, it’s terrible because he blames himself,” Fran said.
Fran said she always liked football, since before the first Super Bowl. She admits she spent years hating the Steelers – she was a Cleveland Browns fan – but has now turned her “girlfriends” into football fans and specifically into Steelers fans.
Frank said he looks forward to talking to his grandson – about a week after the game.
“If, God forbid, they lose, he doesn’t want anybody to talk to him,” he said.
Frank will do what he can, including donning the good-luck jersey he wore for the first Super Bowl victory.
Fran wrapped it up as only Grandma can. She said she worried when he bought a motorcycle, then worried more when he had a well-publicized crash on it a short time later.
“I wasn’t happy (about the motorcycle),” she said. “I don’t want him to get hurt. I want him to do well,” she said. “I also want him to walk off the field.”
Hopefully, at least for the Fousts, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as the Super Bowl champion.