End of a 12-son football dynasty for Minn. family

For 24 straight seasons, there had been at least one member of the Aho family playing on the football team in Cokato, Minn.
CBS News

(CBS News) COKATO, Minn. - For a mom or dad, one of the great joys of life is watching your kid compete on the athletic field. But one couple has taken sports parenting to a whole new level. We met them ... on the road.

It was cold the night Dassel-Cokato High School in Minnesota played its final football game of the year -- cold enough to make your eyes water -- which is what I thought was happening to parent Karen Aho.

But then I got a closer look and saw she was feeling a lot more the wind chill.

"It's been a great run," said Karen's husband Tom.

Karen and Tom Aho of Cokato, Minnesota have never missed a football game in which their sons were playing in. CBS News

For Karen and Tom, this game marks the end of an era -- the end of their reign as two of the longest-serving football parents in America. Over the past quarter-century, they have been to countless games and cheering on countless sons.

It even took a while for the couple to answer how many sons they have, until Karen said with a laugh: "Twelve boys."

Twelve boys -- twelve football players -- spaced out just so that at least one of them has been on every team in Cokato -- every year -- since 1989. Twenty-four straight seasons of knee sprains, grass stains, and night games.

And mom and dad have nary missed a single contest, screaming like teenagers, cursing like true Minnesotans -- "Oh sugar" said Karen after a fumbled play -- and cheering on each child like an only child.

"Mom and dad-- it's very obvious they were passionate about their football and their sports and their kids," said son Steve, who at 38 is the oldest. Seth is the youngest at 18. In between, are too many to name -- or for that matter, even notice. Can you imagine all these guys growing up under one roof?

"When we bought the house, this green carpet was here," said Karen, "They said, 'It's a natural playing field.'"

Over the years, Karen said they broke almost her entire collection of ceramic figurines. The kids blame her for setting them on what is clearly a goalpost crossbar.

It's not so much an issue anymore. Today they've all moved on but Seth, and he's a senior.

Asked if there is any part of her that's glad it's over, Karen said, "No."

Until now, Karen said she's been able to avoid the hardest part of parenting.

"I could never say my kids grew up so fast because there's always another one right there," she said. "But now I'll probably feel it."

Fortunately, Karen and Tom do have 49 grandkids, so it's a little early to start buying ceramics again.

But on this night, at this moment, that was of little consolation. On this night, at this moment, all the Ahos wanted -- was just a little more time on the clock.

By the way, the Ahos have three daughters. too.

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, e-mail us.
For 24 straight seasons, there had been at least one member of the Aho family playing on the football team in Cokato, Minn. CBS News
  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.