The parents of Indianapolis Public Schools educator Andrew Bartolacci are going to the Super Bowl, thanks to their son sharing their story of survival with Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts.
“I saw (Colts’ owner) Jim Irsay’s tweet about how he had two tickets to the Super Bowl with airfare and hotel and all I had to do was tell him why I deserved them,” said Bartolacci, who is a physical education teacher and athletic director at George W. Julian School 57. “I certainly think I didn’t deserved them, but I thought of my parents immediately and tweeted a reply.”
While Irsay said on Twitter that many people were deserving of the trip to Los Angeles, it was the story of Bartolacci’s parents, James and Lou, who have survived their battles with cancer and COVID-19, that made the grade.
Hailing from Michigan, the Bartolacci’s are fans of Detroit but are eager to watch former Lion quarterback Matt Stafford lead the Los Angeles Rams, who will play the Cincinnati Bengals on Feb. 13.
Married for 45 years, the couple still has a daughter at home with cerebral palsy. They reside in Mason, Michigan, located a short drive from the state capital in Lansing, said an admittedly proud son.
“My dad enlisted in the military out of high school and was in it until he retired after 35 years as a colonel,” he said. “He dedicated his life and sacrificed everything to keep us safe and his family fed.
“I don’t know much of his cancer journey because he was diagnosed shortly after I was conceived and battled it while I was just born. But from stories I’ve heard it was rough. He had testicular cancer and my mom was by his side and pushing him through. He lost tons of weight and was ready to just give up but my mom wouldn’t let him and gave him strength.”
Bartolacci’s mother is a retired elementary school teacher who survived a bout of cancer herself in 2020 only to be diagnosed with COVID-19 a short time later.
“As a military spouse, she did the only thing she’s ever known—she fought,” he said. “She was in the hospital all December, by herself, because of Covid protocols. She fought alone. It’s so tragically sad so many people in her situation had to fight alone. We FaceTimed her for Christmas. She still has some long-term complications from that but she’s doing great and is currently cancer-free.”
Bartolacci said his parents are still in a bit of shock they’ll be flying to Los Angeles for the game.
“My mom didn’t believe me until I sent her screenshots of everything,” he said. “They are completely stunned and still not sure it’s really happening.”
Bartolacci is happy his parents will see the NFL’s championship.
“They deserve it,” he said.