Married couple on opposite sides during Ravens-Steelers game

December 03, 2010|Kevin Cowherd

You may look at tonight's showdown between the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers as the defining game of the season. I see it as another huge test for Jack and Heather Hardcastle's marriage.

Here's their story: He's a Ravens fan. She's a Steelers fan. He wears a Matt Stover jersey to games. She wears a Troy Polamalu jersey and waves a Terrible Towel. And they're still together.

OK, they've only been married a month. And there are times when you wonder if these two crazy kids should have Dr. Phil on speed-dial.

"I won't hug him when he's in that Stover jersey," says Heather, 32. "That's gross."

"She won't let me have a Ravens car flag or a Ravens decal or anything like that," says Jack, 26.

Is this marriage doomed?

Will the Owings Mills couple even make it to halftime tonight before Heather throws a whistling haymaker at Jack's head after a Ravens touchdown? Or Jack tries to set her Terrible Towel on fire after a Steelers score?

No, they'll probably be fine. You'll see why at the end of this column.

A little background: Heather grew up in Pittsburgh and was going to Steelers game with her grandmother — a season ticket holder — by the time she was 8.

"You can take the girl out of Pittsburgh," she says. "But you can't take the Steelers out of the girl."

This is how nuts Heather is about her team: She's been known to boo the pastor of her church if he says something nice about the Ravens during his sermon.

Jack grew up in Columbia rooting for the Ravens and Orioles. Still, when he started dating Heather last year, he was pretty low-key about being a Ravens fan.

"He was sneaky at first," Heather says. "He was trying to impress me."

But soon he was inviting her over to his apartment to watch Ravens-Steelers games.

One problem: His roommate said she couldn't cheer for the black and gold. And she definitely couldn't wave that stupid towel.

This didn't go over real well. Asking Heather not to cheer for the Steelers was like asking her not to breathe for three hours.

It wasn't exactly making Jack look like Boyfriend of the Year, either.

"I thought: 'Oh, my gosh, I'm trying to date this girl, dude!' " recalls Jack, the director of technology at McDonogh School.

Heather , a foster-care worker, says she's used to that kind of second-class treatment. It comes with the territory when you're a Steelers fan in Baltimore.

"I hate football season here," Heather says. "People are obnoxious to me."

She says they send her pictures on Facebook of Steelers players being burned alive. Or Steelers player being urinated on. Classy stuff like that. And when the Steelers lose, she'll find a ripped Terrible Towel in her desk at work the following day.

Of course, the obnoxious behavior works both ways with fans of both teams.

Jack and Heather discovered this when they went to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh this October and watched the Ravens pull out that thrilling 17-14 win in the last few seconds.

You can imagine the reception Jack got from Steelers fans as he strolled around in his Stover jersey.

"Hey, Stover! Why don't we stick you in this Dumpster?" was one of the milder cries directed his way.

Fortunately, Jack is built along the lines of a stand-up freezer: 6-foot-6 and 360 pounds. Even the drunkest Steelers fans — and there were enough to start the world's largest outdoor rehab clinic — were wise enough to bypass a physical confrontation.

Midway through the game, Heather asked the nice couple behind them if they'd snap a picture of her and Jack in their respective team jerseys.

Sure, the woman said. But when Heather added that she and Jack were about to be married in three weeks, the woman said: "I'm putting this on Facebook with the caption: 'This will never last.' "

But you know what? I'm betting that woman is wrong.

Heather and Jack won't be at M&T Bank Stadium tonight when the Ravens and Steelers renew their rivalry. Instead, the two plan to watch the game with friends at a Towson bar.

The trash talking will start early.

"We go at it about which team is dirtier, which team has the most hoodlums, that sort of thing," Jack says.

But when it's all over, both say they realize they're more passionate about their marriage than any football rivalry.

"He's a great guy," Heather says of her husband.

"I love the Ravens," Jack says, "but I love my wife more."

All together now: Awwww! Isn't that sweet?!

It sure is.

Enjoy the game, you two. And may the best team win.

(Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.)

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