Human Interest

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Daily News-Sun, Pete Pallagi/AP

What’s the Real Story of Kurt and Brenda Warner?

January 30, 2009 01:29 PM
by Josh Katz
A partially fabricated story about the Arizona Cardinals quarterback and his wife is storming the Internet. Brenda’s real life story is even more interesting.

Popular Story About Kurt Warner’s Marriage Not Completely True

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Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and his wife have certainly been through times together. “The Warners’ marriage has endured a period in which they got by with the help of food stamps, and their family has expanded to include seven children,” The New York Times writes.

Through it all, the two appear inseparable. As the team celebrated their NFC championship victory against the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday, the first thing Kurt did was find his wife in the crowd for a hug.

Warner had to fight the tears twice during the news conference after the win, according to The Arizona Republic. “None of this feels as good unless you can share it with someone. I get to share it with my best friend and the person I’m in love with, and that happens to be my wife,” Warner said. “We have done this together … and I wouldn’t do it with anyone else.”

A story is currently circulating around the Internet detailing the touching story of how Kurt Warner met his wife. It explains how Kurt met Brenda while the two were working at a supermarket, according to Snopes. At one point he went to pick her up for a date but she said she couldn’t go because the babysitter had canceled on her. So Kurt went to meet Brenda’s children and was undeterred to find that her son was a paraplegic with Down Syndrome. Brenda was impressed that Kurt did not run away, like her ex-husband had. 

The story continues with the two marrying a year later and Kurt becoming an NFL quarterback who has reached the Super Bowl for the third time in his career.

But the story is not completely true, and Snopes notes that “the real story … is far more inspiring.”

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The Truth About Kurt and Brenda

In reality, the Warners met at a bar in Iowa when Kurt was the starting quarterback for the University of Northern Iowa, according to Snopes. Warner did work in a grocery store later on, but not until after he went on to the NFL but was cut by the Green Bay Packers in 1994. Brenda told Kurt about her kids at the bar, so there was no “surprise” on their first date. They married after five years, not one.
Snopes also notes that Brenda’s son Zach is not a paraplegic and was not born with Down Syndrome. He was born healthy but his father, Brenda’s ex-husband, dropped him when he was four months old, causing brain damage and loss of vision. He is now able to walk and speak, and he is “no longer a special-needs student.”

The story also omits a number of details about Brenda’s life. The All-American high school cheerleader and self-proclaimed “Jesus freak” chose the Marines over college for financial reasons, according to The Arizona Republic. She met her first husband while serving in Okinawa, Japan, and they had two children. Their marriage lasted less than four years, and Brenda moved back to Iowa with her parents after the divorce, surviving off food stamps, according to Snopes.

Brenda’s woes continued in April 1996 when a tornado killed both of her parents. Things started to turn around soon after: Kurt and Brenda married, and Kurt adopted Brenda’s two kids and grew to embrace her Christian beliefs, according to The Arizona Republic. Kurt’s football career turned around as well, in storybook fashion, but the road has continued to be rocky: Brenda later miscarried twice when Kurt was playing for the New York Giants.

Friends point to Brenda’s difficult past to explain her outwardly tough demeanor and say that few people are aware of her charity work, which includes gathering coats for poor children in St. Louis and nursing sick infants in Phoenix, the Republic reports.

Related Topic: Brenda Warner’s run-ins with the media

Brenda jumped into the spotlight during Kurt’s first Super Bowl appearance, with the St. Louis Rams. At the time, she had spiky hair, “long manicured nails,” and wore a “bright-blue outfit with a boa,” according to the Republic. The media was in heaven.

As her husband struggled with his career after the Super Bowl, Brenda continued to make headlines, appearing on radio shows and denying a St. Louis fan the chance to get Kurt’s autograph while the family was eating dinner.

In December 2002, Brenda essentially called out Rams’ coach Mike Martz on the radio by saying the suggestion to have her husband’s hand X-rayed was hers, not Martz’s. In September 2003, Brenda appeared on the radio again for an interview and indicated that her husband would most likely ask to be traded if Mark Bulger remained the starting quarterback for the Rams instead of him, The Associated Press reported.
Ron Cook wrote a column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in October 2003, commenting on Brenda’s interview and the ensuing media attention. Her statements caused significant tension in the Rams locker room and the players began to see Kurt as less of a leader, according to Cook. Furthermore, that friction came at a time when the Rams “were just starting to feel good about themselves heading into their open week.” When wives become too involved in the public lives of their husbands, Cook argued, they could cause problems for the players’ careers. “Shame on Brenda Warner,” he wrote.

Warner was a Ram for six seasons. He spent 2004 with the Giants, but he was a temporary solution—a “tutor” to college phenom Eli Manning. Fox’s MLB commentator Joe Buck suggested that Warner’s departure from St. Louis may have had something to do with his wife’s proclivity to speak her mind, according to FemmeFan.com.

“At worst you are going to get a wife’s point of view about what’s going on with the hot quarterback in town. At best you’re going to get some kind of controversy where she may say something that may be considered out of place,” Buck said about Brenda’s move to the New York, known for its vigorous media presence. He said, “If I’m a New York radio station, and she is willing to do it … I would do anything I could to make a deal happen just hoping Brenda would again stir things up,” FemmeFan.com reported.

Reference: Super Bowl Guide

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