By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
Posters of bikini-clad women hang on his bedroom wall. Cycling magazines are on the floor, along with a copy of Maxim, the "For Men" journal that always has a buxom model on the cover and a tag line announcing its contents -- "Sex, Sports, Beer" -- in order of importance. As a freshman last year, Steven went to a school dance with two friends who were suspended for showing up drunk. "I know all kids get into trouble. If not this time, maybe next time," Jeanette says. "I just have to trust him."
The doorbell suddenly buzzes, putting the Cozzas' giant Australian shepherd into a spastic fit. Jeanette tries to hold back her dog and let in the guests she forgot were coming. Over Teddy's piercing yelps, the phone rings again. Someone wants to know if Steven can go to the X Games. "Not today," she tells them. "He's already late for something else." Hanging up, she lets out a mock "Calgon moment" scream. The visitors laugh. The film crew in her living room has come to capture such gems of mundane suburban life for the PBS documentary they are making about the Cozza family.
"You have to wonder what's going on and ask, "Can this be real?' Yes, I was incredulous at first," says director Tom Shepard, who has followed the Cozzas for more than two years. "When it comes to parental involvement, you think science fairs and Star Search, not social justice. But I was impressed at how ordinary these people were, and yet they are doing something truly extraordinary -- something Steven very much wants to be part of. Does that make him a superkid? No. He's a kid who mouths off to his parents, especially his father, and who is a real, normal, rough-and-tumble teenage boy."
Jeanette offers the film crew a drink as they shield the camera and boom microphone from the dog. She is used to the spotlight by now, though she wouldn't mind if the picket signs cluttering her living room were gone. She would definitely like it if the Scouts changed their policy. Maybe her family could finally return to a regular life. But that doesn't seem likely.
Some of their Petaluma neighbors and various parents in Steven's Scout troop have shunned the Cozzas. And homophobic strangers from all parts of the country have left vitriolic answering machine messages and e-mails. Death threats and security consultations with the FBI have erased any hopes of a true return to normalcy for the Cozzas.
"At times I have felt this cause is consuming my family," Jeanette says. "I am the one who is the balance. I put the brakes on to protect Steven. Scott gets us involved in lots of activities -- some we want to do and some we don't. He would just wear us out if he had his druthers."
Scott is a tireless organizer who will come home from a full day of work and spend as many hours on the computer in the basement planning the cause's next move. It is not uncommon for him to answer e-mails until 2 in the morning and be up for work at 6.
"He's so dedicated, but it can be annoying," says Anne, who paged her dad at work recently to tell him she loved him because they hadn't crossed paths in several days. "I hope it will end soon; it will be nice to have some closure to it. For once it won't always be there."
Scott concedes Scouting for All has taken a toll on his family. "Maybe I take on more than I should. When my kids say I'm always on the computer, it hurts me, but it's the truth. And what hurts the most is that my relationship with my wife has been neglected. I am aware of it, and I'm working to make things better."
Finally, Steven arrives out of breath and sweaty from his early morning ride. He carries his bike to his room, nodding to the camera crew and ignoring his mom's pleas to hurry up. Just then his dad pulls into the driveway. He is home early to prepare for the protest in Dallas he and his son will travel to tomorrow. Immediately he heads to the basement, turns on the computer, and returns a call from a producer of the Today show.
Steven hears his mom honking the car horn in the driveway. He grabs a bowl of ice cream to take with him but stops for a moment at the top of the basement stairs and watches his dad work the phone. He shakes his head, relieved that he doesn't have to do all the organizing required to keep the cause alive. "Thank God," he says. "I'd have no life."
A blinding flash meets Steven's eyes as soon as he walks off the plane in Dallas. A photographer is at the gate, and Steven is annoyed. During the flight, he could only think about the big bike race he should be training for. His coach was not happy that he had to spend three days away from the trails, which bothers Steven.