Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dreaming With Me-The Importance of Family in Life and Career

This past weekend was Heisman weekend. When you think of the Heisman Trophy Awards, you of course think of college football. For the fans, it is a chance to hope their favorite player brings home the coveted statue where the man according to Manti Te'o has a stiff throwing arm, but Collin Klein reminds us all that he has a good hold on the ball.

However, for these guys it is also the  moment they have dreamed of since they have been little boys, throwing the football with a dad, grandfather, or uncle. They thought of standing on that stage all those times as they ran drills in the hot sun either risking or getting heat stroke. Hitting the gridiron, they chased the dream to college fighting tooth and nail for a place in the starting lineup. When they got it, they played their hearts out because they were one step closer to their dreams. But in this whole equation there is a part that some fans overlook but the players never forget, their families.

For many of these guys, football is a family affair. The Manning Clan, who was nominated in the past but did not win, football is life whether it is college or pro. Archie played both college and pro and now coaches. Peyton and Eli are both NFL quarterbacks. Cooper was a running back, the best of the three, but when injury ended his career he joined Archie on the sidelines coaching. The family doesn't stop there. They write children's books where each family member is a character, and it teaches kids the importance of team work.

This Heisman class was no exception. While Collin Klein did not come to football until high school because he was Christian home schooled, his father taught him the basics in his backyard. Now he plays for Kansas State. As he shattered Heisman winner Ricky Williams's school records, his brother Kyle was on the field as a running back not only ready to catch the ball but to give his brother moral support. His parents of course never miss a game and his wife is there with her beautiful blonde hair ready to cheer her man on the field and off. While they waited to their wedding day to kiss, something I don't think I would do, they seem happy. Sure, it might not be the way I do things but my way isn't the only way.

Manti Te'o had his Hawaiian flowers on and decor. His parents were there as well, and apparently his five siblings are very supportive. Much like the Tebow crew, when he is not playing football he is spreading the word of his LDS faith. While it is not the way the Brucker's spend their time perhaps he will reach someone when they are at a crisis point, when they need to hear a solution. While I might not be super religious myself, I realize it takes many ideas to make the world go round. Why not? One idea would make the place rather dull.

Of course the winner, Johnny Manziel aka Johnny Football the freshman brought both of his parents. During his speech, this well spoken young man thanked his teammates and of course his family. He cited a beautiful story about how his father taught him how to play football, and how he always wanted to play college football and win the Heisman since he was a little boy. He also recounted how his grandfather practiced throwing with him as well, and his grandmother wasn't such a fan sometimes because he broke everything in the house. Mr. and Mrs. Manziel were there to support the baby faced boy wonder, and Papa was crying his eyes out. While there is no crying in football, today was an exception. Today Johnny was getting the Heisman trophy, something he had worked for since the time he hit the field with his first set of football spikes and tasted the green and was mud covered after a tackle. It was a dream come true.

In all my years attending with my sister, who won the High School Heisman back in 2004, I don't think I have ever seen a winner not thank this family. Whether it was Matt Leinert thanking his dad for getting him into football when he was a chubby kid struggling with a cross eyes issues to raise his self-esteem. Or Reggie Bush the following year tearfully thanking his stepfather for not only assuming the father role when his real dad abandoned the family, but also being his supporter and coach (and unscrupulous agent, but that is another blog). Troy Smith was much the same, as was Mark Ingram, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton (who's pop helped a lil too much as well, but again, that's another blog), and Robert Griffin III.

That teaches you something, as you dream your family dreams with you.

Take my family for instance. Yes, they drive me crazy. When my family came in for the Heisman this year we were seeing Spiderman: Turn off the Dark. I had gotten the tickets the week of Sandy, and my mother had driven me crazy. Then I made reservations one place and my family drove me crazy by switching the eating time and shifting the reservations. Then we were worried that my dad might not like Argentinian food so we had to switch to Italian, And then we were worried my dad wouldn't like the Italian place because it had no table cloth. Of course my sister injured her ACL a while ago and the walking in the city is always a question, plus my mom might or might nor like my new hair and ahhhh!!!!

However, my father did end up liking the Italian place and got over the fact it had no table cloth. Spiderman was spectacular. My family enjoyed the night. I wanted to ask them if they knew that they drove me insane. Then the answer would probably be yes. Maybe they just did it because it was Thursday evening and they had no other plans. Either way, the night came off without a hitch which meant I would not be dying of a heart attack at twenty-eight. But one thing is for certain, when I perform on the road my family material always kills because my family doesn't just make me crazy. Everyone's family makes them crazy.

As we sat in the theatre ready for show time my father and I had a moment. When I wanted to come to New York to pursue my dreams my dad was the toughest sell. He didn't want me living in a city where the movie Escape from New York was set in. Plus a life as an artist is a path uncertain, wrought with unemployment as well as poverty, and where one could be damned to toil in obscurity despite a fortune spent on education and training. However, overtime my dad saw I wasn't going to give up and that I was soldiering on despite the odds. So I won his eventual respect and now undying support. He even tells my mother on several occasions how proud he is of me, how I am working towards something big, and how he sees that I am getting it. Since the publication of my book this August, my dad has been pressing me to write a musical version telling me how much it will sell as a play. As we waited for the lights to go down and for Spiderman to start, my dad said, "Someday, your musical will be in this theatre."

As I sat in my seat and stared at the stage, I realized how all my hard work had gotten me to the point this was a reality. Just as the hard work of Johnny Manziel, Manti Te'o and Collin Klein got them to the point where they were in New York getting ready to possibly accept the Heisman and make history. While the dream sometimes seems impossible, to use another football analogy, you must keep your eye on the ball. I think this is why we use so many football analogies in American culture, because what holds true on the field holds true in life. Get on the ball, don't drop the ball, and keep your eyes on the goal.

As I watched Spiderman I saw in the program each of the actors thanked their families. And my mom and I concurred during the intermission that this was the highest point for many of the dancers and acrobats and some of the actors, they had worked their whole lives for this moment. Not only was the show magical, but it was magical to share that with them. Just as it is magical to share the Heisman experience with those young men in their families. Just like an artist, their journey involves a lot of guts, determination, beating the odds, praying to whatever is up there, and most importantly a family that understands that this is a have to, not a want to. They have to do this, and that there is no other way and no other back up plan. It is all or nothing in this journey, period. This was not a choice but a calling.

Perhaps the reason I identify with these young men and their families so much is that the Brucker's do work as a team. When I began performing in New York, my mom began printing down the pages of places that I played and collecting them in a little scrap book. During my time on television when my hometown radio stations were talking about me, my mother emailed me with what was being said in case I was interviewed in order to prepare me. After each television appearance, my mother had them put on DVD in case I was interviewed in the future for 20/20. When I wrote my book, my mother and I called each other daily, reading for an hour and making sure it said what we wanted it to before publication. Of course my sister had suggested the idea of self-publication and mentioned it was the new trend, taking time out of her busy research schedule to research who was best and why. Then of course the rest of my extended family has been fabulous with the purchase of my book. In between there, they show up when I am on the road sometimes to surprise me. Once, during a comedy festival in PA, my sister in law's brother appeared and surprised me with a hug. He was there to support me. Much like a quarterback, while my speed and smarts carry me on the streets as I travel alone, I have my running backs to throw to and the line to protect me. That occasion was a reminder.

Just like a coach, everytime we talk my dad asks, "How is the musical? What is our strategy for getting it to the next stage?"

This morning my mother voiced that I needed a new puppet and told me to get on it. My dad during our lunch at Sardi's spotted the place where my portrait would be once my show went to Broadway. He asked me which famous rockstar was going to write the music. I imagine Johnny Football's dad probably calls him with pointers after the game. Collin Klein and his brother probably discuss plays. Manti Te'o, well I imagine he gets some grief in Hawiian when his folks see he is not on the ball in more ways than one.

Maybe I am different than these young men who chase glory on the gridiron. We probably don't have the same religious or political views. Heck, they probably don't even like the music I do. But if we put that aside we would talk about family. I bet we could all agree that they make us crazy. Whether it is a mother who can't make a decision, a father who won't eat at a place without a table cloth, a sister who is clinical to a fault, or a brother who doesn't check his voicemail messages. We would laugh about them, but the truth is, we can only make fun of them. No one else can. If anyone else does, we are ready to tackle and get mud and grass on ourselves in more ways than one. They are a part of our family, a part of our team, and we have their backs.

In turn, they have our backs whether we play with them on the field or work with them off. Sure, they make us crazy. However, they are the ones pushing us to achieve our goals. Whether they driving us to sports lessons, writing camp, or play practice as children. Sometimes it is tolerating us as we practice our awards acceptance speeches in our bedroom mirror when we think no one is listening despite our obnoxious loudness. It is cheering us on and giving us support when we want to drop the ball because the challenge has become near impossible. It is going to every game, rain or shine, or watching every television appearance, reruns included. It is knowing that while you have the ball, they back your play no matter what.

It is knowing that when you dream, you don't dream alone. No matter how crazy they might be, they are there dreaming with you the entire time.

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Available on Amazon

Come to my book signing
December 27 @ 7pm
Bethel Park Library
5100 W. Library Ave
Bethel Park, PA 15102