STEVE HANLON: 'What's a Grandma to do?'

2011-09-29T22:00:00Z 2012-08-30T23:51:19Z STEVE HANLON: 'What's a Grandma to do?'By Steve Hanlon Prep Beat
September 29, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

Griffith's Austin Brown carried the ball last Friday night and was tackled. Lillian Smith cringed.

Munster's Mark Strbjak went back for a pass while Panthers' defenders rushed in, Mrs. Smith's nerves also raced.

The Dyer woman wasn't necessarily worried about the two quarterbacks in last week's Northwest Crossroads Conference rivalry game, though.

She was just more concerned about two offensive linemen, one in red and one in black. Chris Kritzer plays at Munster. Robert Szabo plays at Griffith. Both are offensive linemen.

Both are Smith's grandsons. Talk about being the uncle of a Hatfield and a McCoy.

So Smith sat in Griffith's bleachers in the first half last Friday. She moved to the Munster stands for the final two quarters of the game won by Griffith 20-13.

"I cheer for both teams," said Smith, who celebrated her 75th birthday this week. "They probably think, 'Here's that crazy old woman again.' Munster-Griffith is such a big rivalry. They don't like each other too much. It was hard on me.

"What's a Grandma to do?"

Last year, when both boys were playing junior varsity, they went nose-to-nose, helmet-to-helmet, the entire game. 'Grandma Lil' was there. But she doesn't remember much.

"I had my eyes closed the whole game," she said. "I couldn't watch. My face was in my hands."

When Smith and her husband, Donald Smith, lived in Georgia, both boys had fond memories of visiting their home on the lake. Fishing. Laughing. Telling stories. Typical, unbelievably awesome, family stuff.

"My grandma, seriously, is the nicest person I have ever met," Szabo said. "She enjoys watching us both play football."

"She's always positive and happy," Kritzer said. "She never says anything negative about anyone. She's always in a good mood."

Kritzer is an avid fisherman, just like his now-departed grandfather. The Mustang loves country music. He plans to major in construction management at Purdue.

Szabo is in a garage band. He writes his own music and loves classic rock. He sometimes plays guitar at the Griffith bowling alley. He is finishing up the application process at West Point.

Two talented young men. Two solid football players. But last Friday on the muddy turf at The Boneyard, when they shook hands after the game, both became mimes.

"I didn't say anything," Kritzer said. "I just shook his hand."

"With the way this rivalry is, I would've got in trouble if I would've walked over and hugged him or something," Szabo said with a laugh.

On Sunday, though, the family had a party and all were wearing the same color there. Smith said she saw "the boys" talking, but she didn't hear what about because she was in the kitchen cooking.

With the Panthers' win last Friday, the cousin record was tied at 3-3 since both started playing against each other in seventh grade. And this is the perfect ending for Grandma Lil.

"I know Griffith beat Munster, but in my eyes they are both winners," Smith said.

There aren't many things better than Friday Night Lights. But the love of a great grandmother is one of them.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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