How big a Redskins fan is Emanuel Vega?
“Big enough to name my son after RGIII,” the 27-year old answered.
It gets better, though. Because if things had gone slightly differently on Thanksgiving Day, Vega’s first son-to-be would instead have been named “Austin Miles Vega.” As in Miles Austin. As in a Dallas Cowboy.
“Horrible,” Vega said, seeming to shudder at the very thought.
See, Vega lives in Tuscon, but is a lifelong Redskins fan thanks to his mom. He has a wall of memorabilia at home, posts on Extreme Skins, spends Sundays at a Skins bar in Arizona, and has traveled to Washington for several games.
His girlfriend Marissa Pena, though, is a lifelong Cowboys fan, thanks to her mom. They’ve been friends for years, and have had several wagers on Redskins-Cowboys games in the past, but they only started dating last year. That meant last season’s Thanksgiving Day game would be their first Washington-Dallas meeting as a couple.
“I thought that was cool, our first official relationship game on Thanksgiving of all days,” Vega told me by phone. “She thought it was cool, too, so we needed some kind of bet. She said the loser would wear the jersey of the other team on the last game of the season at a Redskins bar. That would be horrible for me. That would be horrible.”
But they were also pregnant with their first child, and were struggling to come up with a name. And Vega suggested the winner would get to choose the baby’s name.
“She didn’t really disagree with that at all, but she started saying she would name it Troy Aikman or Emmitt Smith, all these old Cowboys,” he recalled. “I would die if my son grew up to be a Cowboys fan. That’d be awful. I don’t even know how I’d feel.”
Still, they agreed on the bet. If the Redskins won, Vega could pick the name. If the Cowboys won, Pena, 31, was in charge. Each of them was granted one veto; Vega nixed “Emmitt Vega,” and Pena said no to “Darrell Green Vega.” They each chose again; Vega went with “Robert Griffin Vega,” and Pena chose “Austin Miles Vega,” after her favorite active player.
They had a Thanksgiving gathering with family members. Pena’s whole family was in Cowboys gear. Vega and his mom wore Redskins attire. And he became terrified when reading about Tony Romo’s near-flawless turkey day record.
“I was second-guessing the whole time, like, What am I thinking?” Vega recalled. “If she’s gonna name him after a Cowboys player, there’s no doubt he would be a Cowboys fan. My son, as a Cowboys fan? I might have to disown him.”
The Redskins, of course, shot out to that massive second-quarter lead, and held on through an anxious fourth-quarter that Vega said gave him stomach pains. And Pena and her Cowboys-loving family members made their peace with the new name.
“I actually like it,” she told me. “I didn’t at first. I think it just stuck with us. All my sisters call him Little Robby Griff. I don’t like the Redskins, but I love his dad, so….”
Plus, there are no Roberts in her family. Vega’s mom, obviously, loves the name. His friends expressed doubt that he’d really do it; “it’s already set in stone,” he insisted. Others asked if he would give Marissa a reprieve; “I’m like, she lost, THEY lost,” he replied.
I suggested that maybe a future child could be named after a Cowboy; “I don’t think he’ll ever let me name my son Austin,” she said with a laugh.
Meanwhile, Robert Griffin Vega — RGV, obviously — is actually happening. April 16 is the due date.
“We’ve had bets before, where she would wear my Redskins sweater at work if they won,” Vega said. “But the name of our son? Determining what fan he would be? It was just insane that they won. That was even bigger than the division title.”
And Pena? Surely she must have regrets?
“No,” she said. “I mean, it’s all fair, in love and war.”