A few weeks ago, Melba Jacobson delivered her daughter Sharon some disappointing news. Melba admitted to Sharon that she didn't think she'd be able to go to the Dallas game at FedExField this season. Sharon's heart broke. She never imagined her mom, a die-hard Washington fan since the early 1940s, giving up the chance to see a game live.
"I heard how down she was in her voice when she told me and Mom never sounds down" Sharon said.
For the 97-year-old Melba who uses a walker to get around, taking in arguably the rowdiest game of the year in a jam-packed stadium seemed an understandably overwhelming prospect. She planned to give up her seats to her son. That is, until co-owner and co-CEO Dan Snyder got word. Determined to get Washington's biggest fan to her favorite game of the year, he surprised Melba and her family with a suite for Sunday. That surprise was more than just a thoughtful gesture from an owner to a fan. It was an expression of gratitude for a beloved, years-long friendship.
Melba and Mr. Snyder's friendship started in 2014. That year, Sharon took her mom on a VIP trip to Washington's training camp as a birthday present. Watching her team prep for the upcoming season, Melba held up a sign saying that she was there to celebrate her 90th birthday. Mr. Snyder saw it, invited her over to his tent and rallied around some guys to take pictures with the superfan. From there, a tradition was born.
"Every year since, he's given her the royal treatment," Melba's son Jay said.
Then, 2020 hit. The last two years, Melba hasn't been able to celebrate her birthday at training camp or attend any live Washington events because of the pandemic. Anticipating she wouldn't go to the Dallas game and unsure of when she might be able to see the team next, Melba wanted to send a letter to Mr. Snyder thanking him for his friendship over the years. The news of her potential absence soon made its way to the Washington owner.
"Mr. Snyder said, 'Oh no, no. We're not having that. Get her a suite. Give her the works," Sharon said.
Melba was at her Silver Spring home on Friday night when she was a read letter from the team announcing that she would be treated to special accommodations, including a private suite and pregame field access, for the Dallas game.
"Nothing was asked for. That's just how good the Snyders are to her, to all of us," Sharon said.
When Melba arrived at the stadium, donning her personalized "Biggest Fan" jersey gifted to her by the team, the Snyders were the first to welcome her.
"When she saw them, she just threw her arms out to give them a hug," Sharon said. "What a moment, you know? Just seeing how happy she was."
Twenty four loved ones, including kids, grandkids and great-grandkids, joined Melba in the suite on Sunday. This flock represents one of the most amazing parts of her unwavering love for this team.
"Her fandom is a legacy," Melba's grandson Danny said. "She has created fans upon fans for decades."
Danny was deeply touched when he heard about the surprise.
"Words can't explain it," the 32-year-old said. "I thought it was one of the sweetest things to do for one of their oldest fans."
Nine-year-old Logan, one of Melba's 13 grandchildren, echoed that sentiment.
"She has been the most faithful," Logan said. "Being here is amazing."
That most faithful fan has catalogued a countless number of favorite memories over the last nearly-80 years. She's celebrated Super Bowls and met some of her favorite players in person. Sunday, Dec. 12 marked one more favorite to be filed away.
"This has been unbelievable," Melba said. "I just want to say a big thank you to Mr. Snyder for making this happen."