Like millions of football fans this Sunday, Spokane’s Cynthia Bracey-Coleman will be sitting in her living room with friends watching the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl. But that’s not quite where she hoped she’d be.
Bracey-Coleman, a server and bartender at Charley’s restaurant, 801 N. Monroe St., was fully expecting to see the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, and to be there in person. But her hopes were dashed when the Falcons lost to the Arizona Cardinals in a playoff game on Jan. 3 – even though her son, Erik Coleman, a Falcons’ safety, made eight tackles in the game.
“Well, I guess I’ll have to root for the Cardinals on Sunday because if they were good enough to beat my guys, then they deserve my support,” she said, “at least for this game.”
As for her son, he’ll be vacationing in Florida with his wife and new baby daughter. “It was a long season and my wife had a long pregnancy, so we’re looking forward to some relaxation in the sun,” Coleman said from his home in Atlanta.
Bracey-Coleman is a proud NFL mom, right down to the Falcons decal on the front door of the South Hill home she shares with her dog, a pug named Tank. But this energetic grandmother also has boosters of her own – the regulars at Charley’s, along with her children.
“She is just a powerhouse of energy and makes you glad you went in there,” said longtime Charley’s customer Wendy Cowden. “If they could just bottle her, they’d really have something. You can tell she really loves people, and, boy, you can sure tell how much she loves her son.”
Bracey-Coleman went to work at Charley’s in 2002, initially to raise the money to be able to go see Erik and the Washington State University Cougars play in the Rose Bowl.
“I did go to the Rose Bowl, but I never left Charley’s,” she said. “I really enjoy the people who come into the restaurant. They’re so protective of me and such fun. If the Falcons have a bad game, people always find a way to point out something good that Erik did – even my grumpy old men’s group that comes in every afternoon.”
Bracey-Coleman was her son’s No. 1 fan when he was a running back at Lewis and Clark High School and also during his football career at Washington State University. When he was drafted by the New York Jets in 2004, she went to as many home games as she could get to – continuing to travel back for home games when he signed with the Falcons in 2008. Most of the time, Coleman paid for his mother’s trips to see him play.
“I always love it when she comes to games,” Coleman said. “I think I play better when she’s there. I guess I want to show off a little for my mom. She’s been a big influence in my life and I’m glad we’re still so close.”
He recalled how wonderful it was when she came to his WSU games. “She’d come back to my apartment afterwards and cook for a bunch of us,” he said. “It would be her chili or fried chicken or her from-scratch macaroni and cheese. We’d all sit around and catch up and just enjoy it all with her.”
Bracey-Coleman is close with all three of her children – including daughter Erika, who lives with her family in Puyallup, and son Erin, who lives in Spokane with his family – and is pleased she can still be in daily contact with Erik.
She talks with him before every game, always concluding the conversation with Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And just before she had minor surgery earlier this month, she got a call from Erik, who recited the same verse to her – and followed it with a large arrangement of flowers.
In addition to her status as Erik’s chief cheerleader, Bracey-Coleman spends most of her time being a grandmother, visiting with her own mother, Bronetta Bracey, 84, and working at Charley’s. She graduated from Spokane Community College’s entrepreneurship program and hopes to establish the Erik Coleman Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation. Three of her daughter Erika’s five children are affected by the condition.
“You know, growing up, our family situation didn’t always go so well,” Erik Coleman said, “but Mom always kept her belief in God and found a way to keep things going for us, to take care of us.”
Bracey-Coleman does hold close her faith in God, though she admits she is not as involved with church as she used to be: “Football games are played on Sundays and, well, you know.”