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Rooney Mara links NFL's two royal families

This will be Kathleen Rooney Mara's 11th Super Bowl with a rooting interest. She's been a part of eight championships, going for a ninth.

She and her family are the living links between two of the longest-running franchises in the NFL, two families who go back an average of 80 years in the game.

"Really," she said, "the best part of the [Super Bowl] is getting to see the families."

She's not much for the spotlight, kind of like each of the families she belongs to. Her father, Tim, is the third son of Art Rooney, who founded the Steelers in 1933. Third son means you're usually out of luck in running the family business, so Tim moved his family from Pittsburgh to Westchester when Kathleen was 12 and has run Yonkers Raceway since 1972.

In 1975, she and her family were on vacation in Florida when she met Chris Mara, whose grandfather, Tim, founded the Giants in 1925. The two met again at Boston College, started dating and got married in 1981, a couple of years after the Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl title.

Starting off as they did in the small circle of the early NFL, Tim Mara and Art Rooney, whom everyone called "The Chief," were friends. Their sons and their sons were friends in the insular world of football.

So it seems natural that a Mara and a Rooney might meet as Chris and Kathleen did.

"My grandfather was so thrilled," Kathleen said. "My dad, too. Before I met Chris, I had another guy I dated named Chris and I'd say I was going out with him and my dad would always say, 'Chris? You mean Chris Mara?' I didn't even know him then."

Chris is Wellington Mara's second son. He's been on the football side of things his whole life, like his father, who was Tim's second son. So Chris Mara, the Giants' vice president of player personnel, might not be whooping and hollering for the Steelers on Sunday the way his wife and kids will be.

But he'll support the Steelers because of his family, just as Kathleen started supporting the Giants from that day in 1981 on.

"My mother-in-law, Ann Mara, told me that day that I had to become a Giants fan," Kathleen said, "and that my grandmother had told her that. I really love both teams. I've been a Mara now for longer than I've been a Rooney."

And, really, Kathleen's not even the best-known Rooney Mara in her own family. That'd be her daughter, Tricia, who goes by Rooney Mara professionally and is an actress with a couple of movies coming out.

Kathleen's other daughter, Kate, also is an actress. She's been in "24" and "We Are Marshall" and has sung the national anthem at numerous Giants games, as well as a couple of Steelers games.

"They make sure to say 'Kate Rooney Mara' when she sings there," Kathleen said.

Art and Kathleen Rooney had 31 grandchildren, so this is a big affair when a Super Bowl rolls around, and one of the few times Chris and Kathleen actually sit together during a game.

"The traditions go way back. Us girls used to sit by ourselves," Kathleen said. She sat in the same box as Chris for Super Bowl XLII last year -- "but not next to him."

There's also a difference with the rewards for winning. The men get rings, the women get charms. Kathleen Rooney Mara's charm bracelet jingles and jangles quite a bit these days, and she wouldn't wear it much anyway. It doesn't go with much.

So Kathleen Rooney Mara lives a very quiet life in Westchester, near one of her sisters and close to plenty of Maras and her four grown kids and two grandchildren. She's recently started writing for a local newspaper and a couple of magazines, including a story about her grandfather, who died in 1987.

And she gets to be a part of two football teams that are at the top of the league right now. A Giants-Steelers Super Bowl, which seemed a decent bet to occur when the regular season ended, seemingly could have been hellish for someone in her position.

"Oh, no, it was what I wanted," she said. "All the families together ... And we would have won either way. It would have been special."

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