Growing up, Marnie Schneider was always on the road with her grandpa and mom. And while 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. Tose was the father of Susan Tose (Schneider’s mom), who became general manager, legal counsel, and VP for the Eagles. To this day, Susan is the first and only female GM for an NFL team.
You would think having a legendary mom and grandpa would mean Schneider got to grow up with all the glitz and glamour, but you’d be wrong.
“I thought we were poor growing up,” Schneider said. “I mean, I flew coach. I never flew privately. I didn't even know what cashmere was until I was older. I knew that 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 water down that experience for me as much as they could.”
It was during these long and late flights with her family however that Schneider created a character that would change her life forever.
“I would get on the plane and I would sit in the way back in the last seat next to the bathroom with the flight attendants,” Schneider said. “I would have my notepad and I created [Football Freddie] 30 years ago while we were traveling. Then four years ago, my mom said, ‘Let's take Football Freddie, and let's do something with it.’”
“Football Freddie and Fumble the Dog” follows the life of Fredericka — based on Schneider — and her dog. And just like Schneider, Freddie has a tour guide in every city she visits for game day.
Through their personal experience, Schneider and her mom decided to use the book as a way to get communities together and kids to read. The first book featured Schneider’s hometown, Philadelphia, and some of the great sites, including the Betsy Ross House and the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial. After a day touring Philadelphia, the book ends with going to a football game at Lincoln Financial Field to cheer on the Philadelphia Eagles.
Schneider stated that the book did what it was created to do — communities embraced it and kids were not only reading the book, but it encouraged them to start playing sports. But tragedy struck Schneider’s family following the release of their first book together.
“My mother started to exhibit some strange behavior, which I now know is Dementia,” Schneider said. “And then suddenly it was like, ‘oh no, what am I gonna do now?’ We had started this business book hobby and my mom was like, ‘go finish it. Just keep going.’”
According to Schneider, Dementia doesn’t run in her family so her mom’s diagnosis was a “sucker punch” to the gut. But even now as her mom’s caregiver, they still share a bond through their book series. And fortunately, Football Freddie has given Schneider and her mom something no one can take away from them — creating a family business that has given them the ability to share their passion and love for making a difference to whoever wants to listen.
“What I'm trying to do with my writing and with my storytelling is [show that] we all have our own stuff [to go through], but you just gotta grit it out, just keep your foot on the gas, and just move the ball down the field,” Schneider said. “I speak in a lot of sports metaphors, but what I love about football is that, like life, you get chances and you're gonna get the ball back. If you fumble and the other team gets the ball, there's still a very strong chance in the next 60 minutes, you'll get the ball back.”
Four years and eight books later, Scheider and her mom are still bringing Football Freddie and Fumble the Dog to life. But what’s next for Schneider? She’s currently working on a podcast and is expanding her book series into other sports leagues with new characters. But for now, Schneider is just happy she can continue telling her story through Freddie.
“I'm just privileged that I get to tell a story,” Schneider said. “I did not expect at this age to be kind of the legacy keeper of my grandfather and my mom. I think sports taught me to just take [life] play by play and make good things happen. Not every day is gonna be a win, but if we get close, we're in good shape.”
Photo Credits: Shutterstock, Marnie Schneider