I’ve been at this blogging stuff for more than five calendar years, covering six seasons. That means I’ve had the privilege of blogging about the botched snap in Seattle, the Cowboys implosion against the Giants in ’07, the collapse at Philadelphia to end ’08, the shining moments of ’09 followed by the team’s disappearance at Minnesota, the disgraceful season of ’10, and the disintegration in the final month of the ’11 season.
I became a Cowboys fan at the age of 6 in 1977. For the first 12 years that I followed this team, the franchise had character, run by a group of characters. The lead character was the guy in the funny hat—the only coach the Cowboys ever had. Many of us talk about those characters with reverence because we truly revered them.
In the six seasons I’ve covered as a blogger, the team has had three head coaches. I’ve written about characters that I really don’t like. That starts but does not end with Jerry Jones. We had every reason as Cowboys fans to hate Terrell Owens. So Jerry signed him. We had every reason as Cowboys fans to hate Buddy Ryan and any offspring of Buddy Ryan. So Jerry hired one of those offspring.
The results? Owens provided theater that I didn’t want to watch and certainly don’t miss. Ryan runs his mouth for no reason at all other than to run his mouth, and this team’s defense can’t come anywhere close to backing up his boasting.
I don’t dislike this team’s stars—Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Sean Lee, and perhaps Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Witten has played at a consistent level for a long time, and I think most have concluded correctly that he’s the greatest tight end in the team’s history. The others are good players, even if Romo doesn’t belong in the same conversation as Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman and even if I think that the franchise had defensive ends that were just as disruptive as Ware has been as an outside linebacker.
What I don’t like is that this core really hasn’t accomplished anything as a team. Witten, along with Terence Newman and Bradie James, were part of a very solid 2003 draft. The result? Four playoff appearances in nine seasons, with a record of 1-4. The 2005 draft was even better, and that’s how this team got Ware, Ratliff, and Marcus Spears. The result? Three playoff appearances in seven seasons, with a record of 1-3.
So what has prompted me to rehash all of this? It was an email from Darlene in Greenville, Texas (and thanks for including your location, Darlene). I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been accused on the Internet, anonymously or not, of not being a “real fan” of this football team. Darlene was the latest to accuse me of this. She asks, “Do yoa [sic] even watch the games, or are you to [sic] busy writing smartass comments? Cause us real fans are going to watch the Boys win or lose.”
Maybe there was no way for Darlene to know that I’ve followed this team for 35 seasons. Even if she did, that doesn’t matter to some diehards. I’m convinced that some of those who have attacked my fanhood are no older than 15.
As for watching the Cowboys, win or lose, I will admit I started liking the team during a season in which the Cowboys won a Super Bowl. At the age of six, I didn’t know what that meant and really didn’t appreciate it. In my six-year-old mind, the Cowboys were more fun to watch than the hometown St. Louis Football Cardinals.
I understood the game better when the Cowboys lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIII. I balled my eyes out at the age of eight when Vince Ferragamo threw a touchdown pass to Billy Waddy to allow the L.A. Rams to beat Roger Staubach in his final game with the Cowboys.
Then there were the three consecutive losses in the NFC championship game, including The Catch in 1981.
Then there was the first losing season since 1964. Then there were the bad years of four wins in two seasons.
Yes, we all enjoyed the dynasty.
But there was all the drama in the second half of the decade, followed by what we’ve seen in the new century. And what has happened over the course of the past decade, even after the team rebuilt itself, is that we’ve become conditioned to expect to lose games that really matter.
Darlene, do you really want to compare how many losses we’ve both watched? Did you watch all 33 losses between 2000 and 2002, yet hold out some unrealistic hope that Jack Reilly was going to learn how to call plays or that Bruce Coslet was going to get the most out of Quincy Carter? Did you shrug off the agony of losing playoff games to the Seahawks and Giants when you were completely convinced that the team was going to win and advance? Did you happily enjoy the 2008 offseason, even when every time you saw a reference to the Cowboys, you saw this score: Philadelphia 44, Dallas 6?
You are perhaps some sort of Pollyanna, Darlene. If so, you have a better outlook on life, and you will probably live longer. Or perhaps you drink too much Kool-Aid—especially the Jerry Jones brand—in which case the processed sugar isn’t healthy. It’s still better than smoking crack.
Anyway, I’m not as negative today as I was last night. I’m just numb. This post is the first of what will be yet another very long offseason.
But no matter what Darlene or anyone else thinks of my attitude or my blog, I’ll keep it going. Whether it works or not, this has become my therapy.