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The Story of Janet Elway
by Rubel Shelly

    The boss wins a much-deserved honor for turning the company around and saving everyone’s job. A mother of two accepts congratulations for receiving her law degree. A dark-horse candidate basks in the glow of winning a tough election.

    If any of those people are married, I hope they had sense enough to put their mates at the top of the list of those who made it possible. Loyal spouses typically pay a price fully as high — and often higher — than the one who gets the applause and fame.

    Take the case of Janet Elway as proof. Her husband retired May 2 after sixteen years as a professional football player. John Elway is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame in five years. He has completed more passes, gained more passing yards, and thrown more touchdown passes than any quarterback already enshrined at Canton. He led his Denver Broncos to Super Bowl championships the last two years.

    Elway came into the league as the first choice in the 1983 draft. Billed as the savior of the Denver franchise, he was given a $5-million contract and subjected to merciless scrutiny. The early years were tough. He got off to a shaky start. The fans booed. Know who was taking it as harder than anybody? You guessed it: Janet Elway.

    “When I would go into a department store or a grocery store and sign a check, they would say, well, not good things about John,” she said. During the 1985 season, she gave birth to their first child. When she was able, she was back in the stands to watch her husband play football. It was a game at Mile High Stadium against Kansas City, and John was intercepted five times.

“You can get your #%*#^* wife pregnant, but you can’t do anything else!”
    A man sitting right behind her stood up after the fifth interception and yelled, “You can get your #%*#^* wife pregnant, but you can’t do anything else!” Janet turned around and slapped the man square in the face. “It was really embarrassing because the guy didn’t know it was me,” she said. “He said, ‘Out of all these people I have to be sitting by his wife.’ He apologized and everything.” But the sharper sting that day was still to Janet’s heart rather than to some fan’s face.

    At John’s retirement press conference, Janet and their four children were there as a family. The announcement was interrupted by his frequent tears. Janet went to the podium with a box of tissues. She has been there every step of the way.

    For all the achievers and doers of this world, a word of counsel: Don’t forget the spouse who stayed, was loyal, and bore with the loneliness or neglect. When you’re at the top of your game, be sure he or she gets to share the success in full measure.

    Congratulations, John. I’ve enjoyed those fourth-quarter comebacks you could engineer with such skill. And I hope you have planned something special for Janet.

Copyright © 1999, Rubel Shelly. Used by permission. To obtain back issues of “The FAX of Life” go to: <http://www.faithmatters.com>

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