Growing up, Marnie Schneider was always traveling with her grandfather and mother. And although traveling was always an adventure for her, it meant work for her family.
Schneider is the granddaughter of Leonard Tose, former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1969 to 1985 and founder of the Ronald McDonald House. But Schneider’s family greatness doesn’t stop there. His mother is Susan Tose Spencer, who became the general manager, legal counsel and vice president of the Eagles. To this day, Susan is the first and only female general manager of an NFL team.
One would think that having a legendary mother and grandfather would mean that Schneider grew up with glitz and glamor, but one would be wrong.
“I thought we were poor when we were kids,” says Schneider. “I mean, I flew in coach. I never flew in private. I didn’t even know what cashmere was until I was older. I knew my experiences were different, but my mother would never let me think like that… I wasn’t sitting in the front of the plane. My mother and grandfather really tried to dilute that experience for me as much as they could. “
However, it was during these long, late flights with his family that Schneider created a character named Football Freddie who would change his life forever.
“I would get on the plane and sit in the last seat next to the bathroom with the flight attendants,” says Schneider. “I would have my notepad and I created [Football Freddie] 30 years ago while we were traveling. Then four years ago my mother said, ‘Let’s take Football Freddie and do something with him.’
Soccer Freddie and Fumble the Dog follows the life of Fredericka, based on Schneider, and her dog. And like Schneider, Freddie has a tour guide in every city he visits on game day.
Through personal experience, Schneider and his mother decided to use the book as a way to bring communities together and for children to read. The first book featured Schneider’s hometown of Philadelphia and some of the great sites, including the Betsy Ross House and the Benjamin Franklin National Monument. After a day touring Philadelphia, the book ends with going to a football game at Lincoln Financial Field to cheer on the Eagles.
Schneider claimed that the book did what it was created to do: Communities embraced it, and children were not only reading the book, but were also being encouraged to start playing sports. But tragedy struck Schneider’s family after the release of their first book together.
“My mother started exhibiting strange behavior, which I now know is dementia,” says Schneider. “And then all of a sudden it was like, Oh no, what am I going to do now? We had started this business book hobby and my mother said, ‘Go finish it.’ Just keep going. ‘”
According to Schneider, dementia is not inherited so his mother’s diagnosis was a “punch” to the stomach. But even now, as their mother’s caregiver, they still share a bond through their book series. And fortunately, Football Freddie has given Schneider and his mom something that no one can take away from them: creating a family business that has given them the ability to share their passion and love of making a difference with whoever wants to listen.
“What I try to do with my writing and my narration is [show that] we all have our own things [to go through]But you have to push yourself, keep your foot on the gas and move the ball around the field, ”says Schneider. “I speak in many sports metaphors, but what I love about football is that, as in life, you have opportunities and you are going to get the ball back. If you fumble a fumble and the other team gets the ball, there’s still a great chance that you’ll get the ball back in the next 60 minutes. “
Four years and eight books later, Scheider and his mother continue to play Football Freddie and Fumble the Dog. But what’s next for Schneider? He is currently working on a podcast and is expanding his book series to other sports leagues with new characters. But for now, Schneider is happy to continue to tell his story through Freddie.
“I am privileged to be able to tell a story,” says Schneider. “I did not expect at this age to be a kind of guardian of the legacy of my grandfather and my mother. I think sports taught me to drink [life] play game and make good things happen. Not every day is going to be a victory, but if we get close, we will be in good shape. “
Emilee White is the editorial and marketing director of Good sport, a media company dedicated to increasing the visibility of women and girls in sport.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.