Super Bowl LV will be played in Tampa Bay to the excitement of millions of obsessed fans. My son, Ali Marpet will be part of this history-making team. They will be the first-ever, National Football League to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. The entire family will be there. Except for me. My son is playing in the Super Bowl and I’m staying home.
Ali grew up in Hastings On Hudson, a small community 11 miles north of New York City. He played peewee football at seven, high school basketball at 14, and he became co-captain of the high school football team at 16. When it came time to go to college, Ali set his sights on schools in the northeast where he could get a rigorous academic education.
Hobart College recruited him, offering a decent scholarship if he agreed to play for the Statesmen and he said yes. Then freshman year, the coaches sent Ali home for summer break and school vacation telling him to eat as much as possible. Sitting at the table, forcing healthy food into his body, training at the gym, and abstaining from mood-altering substances, he became dedicated to the athlete’s calling. He worked harder, stronger, faster than anyone expected, impressing us all.
Ali is the youngest male sibling of four children. As the youngest boy in the family, Ali was always fighting for his place in the heap. When family friends think about Ali they think of him as the tiny one. Little did they know that with steadfast training, rigorous discipline, and good organic cooking, Ali would grow to be 6 foot 4, 307 pounds.
With the family and a close-knit group of friends cheering him on, he excelled at college football until he suddenly found himself in the center of a maelstrom of agents eager to sign him. Drafted 61st in the second round of the 2015 NFL season, he made history as the highest ever draft pick for a division three athlete when Lovie Smith called inviting him to play for the Bucs.
Ali moved from New York to Florida and began his new career. He also developed a passion for social justice. We have had many wonderful conversations about causes that he cares about, ranging from the Innocence Project to homelessness and at-risk youth. I know that he cares very much about our country and our planet. I’m also lucky that he cares about me. That’s why I’m staying home. As a kidney transplant recipient, I am immune suppressed. With COVID on the rise, it would not be prudent for me to travel. Besides, Ali’s sister, Zena is a nurse who is on the front lines of a war zone trying to save lives.
As an emergency room healthcare provider in California, she is seeing the very worst that COVID has to deliver. Her days are overwhelming. People are dying. She stresses, every chance she gets, that staying home is the best way to diminish the virus and its spread. While we all understand that not everyone can avoid public interactions, she advocates for rigorous mask mandates and a moratorium on travel.
Ali will be lucky to have his Dad with him in Florida and his brothers close by. Zena who has received both doses of the vaccine is able to take a few days off to fly to Florida for the first time in over a year. She has confirmed, the best thing for me, and others like me, is to stay put. So, I’m staying home because I love my life and I love my son and I want to be around for a long time. Go Bucs.