When I was 14 years old, I hated football. So much. I hated it for one very simple reason: Everyone else loved it, and I was an angry teenager who wanted to be different. Then, as I got older, I missed my chance to learn the game. Everyone around me understood it so well—all the rules, penalties, and positions—and I was embarrassed to admit I didn’t. As a result, I graduated high school and went to college knowing nothing about football. To me, it was just a bunch of huge dudes running back and forth for three hours, so, at Hendrix College games (the ones I bothered to go to), I would pretend I knew what was happening. I clapped when everyone else clapped and yelled at the referees when everyone else yelled—whether I knew why we were yelling or not.
Then, during my Sophomore year at Hendrix, I met Seth Peters. I knew he was a football player, but that information was no more important to me than finding out he prefers shorts to pants and hates vegetables. When I told my roommate about him, she said, “Wait, did you say Seth Peters?? I know him! He was the quarterback for Greenbrier! Our high schools played against each other…..He’s good.” That was the first time someone told me how good Seth is at football. (In the years to come, especially during football season, I would be told something like this at least once a week. Sometimes, I would even have people ask me to make sure Seth “stayed safe” or “stayed healthy” during the week so that he could play his best on Saturday.) After my roommate’s comment, though, I went with her to one of Seth’s games. Of course, I didn’t understand a single minute, and I didn’t go to another game that season.
By the beginning of the next football season in 2015, I had been dating Seth for almost a year, and decided I should probably start going to his games. I went to every game that season except two (because, hey, I was still in college and I had huge assignments and traveling of my own to do), and, during every game, I sat with Seth’s mom. After every play, I said, “Okay. So what just happened?” Every time a referee made a call, I asked why. Every time the crowd cheered, I asked why. Over and over and over. She told me I was learning quickly, and, by the end of the season, I had a better understanding of football than I ever thought possible. Then, by the end of the next season, I honestly enjoyed going to the games (loved it even), and I was yelling at the refs with the best of them—for reasons I actually understood.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2017. I’m in Northern Arkansas with my family, and Seth is in Central Arkansas with his family. I get a call from him on an unusually warm January morning while I’m sitting outside drinking coffee. He tells me he wants to sign with a Finnish football team. I knew he had been thinking about playing professionally in Europe, but that had been more of a dream—just something we talked about when school was getting too stressful. Now, he’s actually going? I had only gotten back from studying in Germany six months ago, and he was already asking me if I wanted to leave home again, to go back to Europe for a second time. I really didn’t know what to say. It didn’t seem real.
But I knew this was something Seth wanted, and, based on what I’d heard about Pekka, I knew he was the kind of guy I wanted Seth playing for. Over the phone, Seth told me about the team and the contract. I could tell he had put a lot of thought into his decision and this was the team he wanted to play for. Personally, I have a hard time making decisions. Seth, on the other hand, is a rock solid decision maker. He knows what he thinks and what he wants, and if he wanted to play for the Steelers, then I knew that was the right thing for him to do. I wasn’t sure yet how I would fit into his plans, but I told him to go for it, to sign the contract.
Fast forward another several months, and Seth and I have graduated college. He left for Kuopio the day after graduation, and I went to Washington D.C. on a service trip to learn about homelessness and gentrification. Then, in late June, I followed behind Seth, bound for Finland. At this point, I was openly terrified. Right before graduation, I was offered a very stable, well-paying job at a new software company in Little Rock. I almost decided to stay in Arkansas because of it (At home, it is very rare for a young adult to find a job that pays a livable wage and provides benefits when s/he is fresh out of college and has no more than an undergraduate degree….Very rare). After weeks of stressful deliberation, I decided to turn down the job and come to Finland—I’ll have plenty of time for stability later on in life. Still, I had no idea what to expect coming over here. How long would we be here? Would we make friends? Would I miss home as much as I did when I was in Germany? Would I find a way to make money or would I go broke? Would I regret turning down the job?
Lucky for me, Seth was right about the Steelers. Like I said, when he makes a decision, it’s because he knows it’s the right decision to make—and the Steelers were the right decision. To put it simply, the Steelers are a great organization filled with great people. I have never once felt alone since I have been here. Any time Seth or I had a problem—anything from our mattress falling apart to me trying to get a work visa—someone was right there with us, helping us make calls, putting us in touch with the right people, translating documents, assuring us that everything would work out and we had nothing to worry about. I cannot stress how kind, genuine, and supportive they all have been. Pekka, Jenni, Jarkko, Jussi, Roope, Erkka. I could go on. I am so sincerely grateful for their effort and generosity.
If it weren’t for the Steelers, things would not be going so well right now for Seth and me. In fact, I may have had to go home next month if they hadn’t worked so hard to help me settle into the job I now have, and Seth may not have re-signed for next season. But Seth did re-sign, and I am staying. Yes, I was terrified on the way to Finland, but now that I’m here, in this beautiful place, meeting so many wonderful people, working as a teaching assistant with students learning English—a job I thought could never be more than a dream—I couldn’t be any happier. I am so glad Pekka convinced Seth to play for the Steelers, and I am so glad I turned down that job in Little Rock.
So, long story short, if I had known when I was fourteen that football would bring me to this amazing place and these amazing people, I probably would have loved it from the very beginning.