Rock Bottom, Sharon Moseley says, came in 1972 when her husband was dumped by the Houston Oilers with no prospect of ever playing football again. They moved back to Livingston, Tex., where she taught high school and he installed septic tanks and finished college.
Every day for two years Mark Moseley would wait for his wife to come home from work and they would go to a nearby field.
She would hold the ball.
And he would kick.
Just in case.
On Sunday, Sharon, 35, sat frozen to her usual seat on the 10-yard line as her husband kicked his third field goal of the game, a 42-yarder that set a National Football League record and put the Redskins in the playoffs for the first time since 1976.
"First, I had to make sure the Giants didn't get the ball back," she said yesterday in her soft, raspy southern voice. "I didn't move. And then Candy Butz and I hugged each other and I just started crying . . . All of the girls that know me understand I'm always a nervous wreck, not Mark . . . "
"She was late yesterday," explained Moseley, 34, "because she led the choir at church. I knew she was going to be late but I was getting kind of anxious because it looked like we were going to kick the first field goal."
"I was only 20 seconds late," she clarifies. "I'm usually an hour early . . . I'm so nervous if I'm not at the game, seated and positioned."
They are still like newlyweds after 11 1/2 years. Sitting in the middle of the Mark Moseley Travel World in Fairfax, she giggles when he talks. He looks at her in awe. She is his lighter side, whimsical but tough. He is her hero, football or not. She wears a 14-karat number "3" necklace. It's his number. And the number of children they have. Two-year-old Mark Jr. practices his kicking in the living room.
Every Saturday, she washes the four socks he will wear on his right foot to kick on Sunday. "It's the only thing I do to get him ready," she says. The Redskins' club takes care of the uniform and the other pair of socks. He actually wears five socks, she says, on the kicking foot. Every Sunday, she says, she has to eat a ritual hot dog before the game. It calms her.
She was with him when he was suddenly dropped by the Philadelphia Eagles, his first professional ball stint. And two years later when he was told in a parking lot that Houston didn't need him anymore. And last August, when it looked as though even the Redskins would be replacing him with a younger ace after nine years. But they are devout Baptists and through it all have believed that there isn't anything God puts on them that they can't handle.
"We have faith," she says, "faith that we have somebody on our side that gives us a special edge."
Yesterday, moments before a Christmas open house at the travel agency in Fairfax, they were still a team. They always speak in "we." The words bounce off each other.
"I'd have to write a book in order for you to understand all the things we've been through for you to realize what she means to me as far as what we do," said the kicker.
"Gosh," she drawled and laughed, her milky skin turning to rose. "Are you all listening to this?"
"We've been through a lot of hard times," he said. "It hasn't been an easy road. We've slept in roadside parks and done without and wondered where our next meal was coming from."
"But you know, we were always happy," she says several times, careful not to paint it too black during their moment of glory. "We had a good time . . . We were together and that's all that counts . . . if you don't have anything you don't have to worry about losing it."
"The Lord always found a way to provide for us," he says. "Most people just see the surface and it's not that we didn't pay our dues because we have."
"But we were young and it didn't seem to bother us," she says, swinging him up again. "When we left Philadelphia we had $40 between us . . . "
"I spent those two years after Houston getting ready to play again and get someone to talk to me . . . I kept working out for two years without any hope and we'd go out and Sharon would hold the ball . . . She used to go out all afternoon and hold for me and we'd chase the ball down . . . We spent two years like that not getting any response from teams at all . . . "
"Well, I guess it was low for him because he wanted to play so bad and we couldn't get on with another team," she concedes.
"It would be kind of hard to do what I do without her," he interrupts. "She understands my feelings about everything . . . My part is such a mental game that I have to have someone that I can unload on, I guess. I just can't go and talk to the guys."
They dated in high school in Texas, where she went to Woodville High and he to Livingston. He was a kicker, she was a twirler. But they broke up the summer he went to college, and he married someone else. They didn't see each other for four years.
"My mother," she says, fumbling with the explanation. "It wasn't that she didn't like him . . . You know, high school football players sometimes seem smart aleck . . . Well, my mother, I guess she just didn't hit it off with him . . . My mother loves him now and she's sorry she ever said anything."
After his divorce and before Philadelphia, he called her again.
"Mark," she calls over to him while he whispers on the phone. "Can I tell her how we hooked up? Is it all right if I tell her?"
"I guess," he says, playfully demurring.
"He doesn't like to hear it. He says I caught him in a weak moment," she says. Everyone in the small travel agency room is laughing now.
"He called me and asked me to go out with him . . . And I said, 'Okay' . . . the first night he asked me to marry him," she says. Everyone is upbeat, still laughing. "He doesn't like me to tell that story."
"She's not telling the whole story, she won't tell the whole story," he yells over.
"It wasn't anything bad," she says. "I know what he's going to say . . . I won't tell it. It's his story . . . "
Finally, he breaks down and tells it.
"I know she'd work all weekend just getting ready for me," he says. "She had to have been sunbathing all week . . . She had on her sexy yellow hot pants. Back then they wore hot pants. They wouldn't allow you to wear those things today. She just kind of ambushed me."
They were married a month later. She quit her teaching job and they drove to Philadelphia.
"To me he doesn't have to play football to be the person I love and respect . . . Needless to say, we know that this game will be over for us someday. We can't play forever and ever."