This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Barnhart, who writes the popular blog, “Football, Food, and Motherhood.” I talked to her about her lifelong love of the Steelers and the exciting opportunities she has had because of her successful sports blog, including being invited to the Super Bowl and playing in the NFL Fan Style Fantasy Football league.
Q: As someone who didn’t get into sports until later in life, I’m always curious how other people became interested in sports. How did you become a sports fan?
A: I grew up in Pittsburgh, which is probably one of the biggest sports towns in America. It was a right of passage. You live, breathe, and eat black and gold. I can remember watching football when I was a little kid with my dad drinking beer cans with the Steelers logo on them. It’s been a lifelong love.
Q: What is your fondest sports memory?
A: I’ve done a lot with sports. I used to bartend in Pittsburgh and we had a lot of players come in. I got to meet players for the Steelers and the Pirates and the visiting teams. Seeing athletes in their normal atmosphere makes you realize that they’re just normal people and makes you less shell-shocked to meet them.
Once I started the blog, the NFL contacted me and invited me to watch the Super Bowl in 2012. I was pregnant at the time, so my son has been immersed in football since before he was born. How many kids can say that? He got to see his home team, the New York Giants win.
Q: What was your inspiration for “Football, Food, and Motherhood”? And how has it evolved over time?
A: I was pregnant and I was still relatively new to New York. I didn’t know a lot of people, and especially not new moms. I decided to start the blog as a way for me to have a diary or digest of everything that was happening to me. It was honestly just for me—I didn’t intend it for it to take off like it did. I wrote about my three passions football, food and motherhood: I’ve grown up with football my entire life, I moved to New York for food, and being a mom has transformed me. Those are still the three main components of my life that I love to write about.
Because football is such a niche and not that many people do it, I’ve been contacted by the NFL and many other sports outlets to do a lot of exciting things. On top of getting sent to the Super Bowl when I was pregnant, they’ve sent me to a few other games, and asked me to join their first fantasy football league – which also just happens to be all female - as part of the NFL Fan Style section of their site. I’ve been really happy to see that the NFL is embracing their huge female audience and that they want to showcase it.
Q: What’s the top piece of advice you would give to other women balancing a career and home life?
A: Finding balance is the challenge. I think the most important thing is to try to enjoy every single day. It’s easy to get wrapped up in work, but you have to remember that these days aren’t going to last forever. When I first started the blog, I wanted to reserve one day a week to just hang out with my son. That didn’t last very long. I work way more than I wish I did, but it’s hard when you work for yourself and from home. You can’t shut it off.
It’s important not to lose sight of the little moments. My son is in pre-K, and I walk him to school every day. We walk along the water in Astoria Park, and we just talk. We don’t use our phones. We just hang out with each other and it’s the best part of my day.
Q: You’ve had the opportunity to work with the N.Y. Giants on improving safety regulations for children. Can you tell me a little bit about those efforts?
A: The Giants are really great with outreach to parents. A couple of years ago, when the concussion problem was getting a lot of attention, they had an initiative to bring parents into the stadium and they took us through a clinic to talk about the sport. They discussed the uniforms, the equipment, and the best ways to protect athletes. They also brought in a few players, so that parents could ask questions directly to those on the field.
I know that a lot of people slam football for being dangerous. That’s always been a big controversy. As a parent, I wouldn’t force my kid to play a sport, but if he wanted to play football, I wouldn’t say no to that either. I think it’s more important to be an active and educated parent about the sport that your kid is participating in. Is your child safe on the field? Does he have the right helmet? Is the coach watching to make sure the kids aren’t dehydrated? Is the coach certified to be out on the field and teaching?
Q: What is one storyline in any sport that you are looking forward to this year?
A: Mostly I follow the Steelers. I want to make sure we’re killing our rivals, the Baltimore Ravens and improving year-to-year. I also love to follow Antonio Brown. He’s one of my favorites on Snapchat. He’s on all day long: pulling into the stadium, having a conversation with the parking attendant, on the plane going to the game…. He’s everywhere. He just has so much fun and he always shows his kids and his home life.
Q: If you could have dinner with any athlete living or dead who would you choose and why?
A: Vince Lombardi – because he’s basically the myth, the man, the legend. Obviously I am a Steelers fan, but when I was at the Giants stadium, I remember the one coaching staff member tell me back when Lombardi was the offensive coordinator at Yankee Stadium, he used to take weighted socks and drop the plays down to the head coach. It’s funny to imagine all these parachutes coming down to the field. Nowadays, Met Life is so massive the offensive coordinators literally run down the halls to people holding the elevators only to rush off in golf carts to meet the team in the locker room on time. So, even in 2016 it’s not a flawless system.
I think it would just be incredible to kick back with a cigar and sip rye with Lombardi and talk “ball” with the boys. Back when football was hardcore and raw and such a different world than it is today with fines for dancing, an actual concern for concussions, and breast pump stations for moms!