Tonight’s loss to the Packers was extremely rough. Especially since the first half went so badly. We are the better team and we just weren’t prepared I guess. The future is bright but the present sucks.
I usually don’t care this much about a big loss…I’ve gotten used to it. All sports fanatics get used to it. At least the crazy ones who actually root for one team instead of just whoever happens to be winning.
In some ways it’s because this was almost certainly goodbye to Tony Romo. I kept envisioning Tony kneeling out the clock against the Steelers the being handed the Lombardi Trophy and hearing Jason or Jerry say “This one’s for Tony!” just like when Elway finally won. Not that I think they should start Tony over Dak but just letting him kneel out as a way of saying thank you for all the years of fighting for the star with so little support. But he’s almost certainly gone now. And Witten and Romo won’t be wearing the same suit ever again…the Packers ended the greatest duo in Cowboys’ history.
I hate being a sore loser but I just don’t care about watching the rest of the playoffs. I don’t like Football that much…I love the Cowboys. That’s why I watch Football.
I wrote the following 2 months ago but never published it, it just didn’t seem quite right…but now it seems perfect:
I am a Cowboys fan. It’s the first sports anything I was consciously aware of. When I was 3 my parents moved to Fort Worth Texas. Little did I know that was maybe the worst year in the glamorous sport franchise’s history. I had no idea that the man I would come to admire like a biblical saint (Tom Landry) had just been fired. Nor was I conscious that the team was terrible. In fact my earliest memories of birds are that Cardinals were evil. At the time the St. Louis Cardinals were both a Baseball and football team, and the football team happened to be the fifth team in the NFC East, the greatest division in NFL History (12 Super Bowl wins & a total of 21 NFL Championships, 20 super bowl appearances & a total of 36 NFL championship appearances, 14 Super Bowl MVPs are from the NFC east, all 4 teams are in the top 17 most valuable sports franchises in the world with 3 of those teams being in the top 9 and the Cowboys of course are #1, additionally 94 pro football hall of fame inductees belong to the NFC East which is 31% of the total inductees). Obviously this was many many moons ago. Back when Warren Moon was one of the best QBs around.
I don’t know if I could really be called a cowboys fan at that point of my young life. In any case we moved to the Philippines when I was 6 and Football was the farthest thing from my mind. They like Basketball in the Philippines.
At some point during elementary I read Tom Landry’s autobiography and simply fell in love with the Cowboys. If it had been Joe Gibb’s bio instead I may have become a die hard Redskins fan. But the time still really wasn’t right for me to be a true sports fan of anything. I just didn’t follow Sports and except for the NBA Finals we really didn’t watch sports in my family.
So I missed the Cocaine Cowboys…obviously there’s good and bad there. The 90s Cowboys were amazing but they also weren’t exactly role models the way previous Cowboy Eras were. And I must admit I didn’t really understand football or know much about it. But today I can literally write from memory every super bowl winner and loser in correct order (but I can’t list all 50 states).
I didn’t totally miss the cocaine cowboys. At the beginning of fifth grade (1996 I think) we went back to the US for a year. At the beginning of that year we went to a preseason game in Dallas against the Denver Broncos. I’m pretty sure Dallas lost. I had no idea that they had won their 5th NFL title just a few months ago. I didn’t know who Jimmy Johnson or Barry Switzer were. But as it turns out I was about to meet a very special Cowboy. A Cowboy whose name doesn’t come up often anymore but might become a household name again soon because he might be on Donald Trump’s staff in DC. Herschel Walker. Walker is a really interesting person and as someone who struggles with emotional and mental illness I highly value his advocacy. His greatest contribution to the Cowboys franchise was in an infamous trade with the Vikings. They took him in exchange for a bunch of draft picks that Jimmy Johnson basically used to build the 90s dynasty. Then when the Vikings were done with him Walker eventually came back to Dallas and retired a Cowboy. That was when I happened to meet him. He went to my parents’ biggest supporting church: Irving Bible Church. So the next morning after church I met the biggest…blackest person I have ever met. I’m not sure if I had ever spoken to a black person before then (I’m a relatively sheltered white boy) or a real athlete. And I thought he was magnificent. He looked like…he couldn’t be real. I know my memory can’t possibility be accurate because even though Walker has always been in excellent shape he doesn’t look like Apollo Creed…well actually it’s close. But in my mind his arms and shoulders were bigger than Carl Weathers in Predator. He talked to my Dad for a minute. We told him we saw him play the night before and Walker said “if you can call that playing.” Aside from the superhero impression he left on my young mind the other thing was he wasn’t very happy. A grim awesome giant.
After winning super bowl XXX they didn’t win a playoff game until I was 24. I watched that game on an old SD TV on one of those Audio/visual roller stands at work. At the time I was a security guard for Coca Cola. A bunch of us were in the break room when we probably shouldn’t have been. But I remember how exciting it was.
The real beginning of my journey to actual Cowboy fandom was my third thanksgiving of college…I used to go to San Diego with my friend Tim for thanksgiving because my parents were still in the Philippines. Tim and his family are big chargers fans. In any case whenever anybody asked me who I rooted for I said Dallas not realizing how hated they were. I would always apologize and say really the old Cowboys, the Landry Cowboys not the gross 90s Cowboys. But I had been hearing rumors of this new QB, Tony Romo. I really don’t remember the game that day (it was Nov. 19, 2006 against the Bucs, the beginning of Tony’s turkey day winning streak) but I remember actually knowing what was going on with the Cowboys for the first time ever and realizing I truly did care. That would slowly turn into the deep sick obsession/love I have for that damn star.
In 2010 I would wind up at the thanksgiving day game with my beautiful wife (because of her, she surprised me with tickets) and watch Drew Brees beat a Jon Kitna led Cowboys team. Makes me feel like I’m a bit unlucky for Dallas.
But here’s the thing…Staubach and Landry, they’re my heros. Even though I never actually saw them do anything. They’re in the past. And I love the past, I love history. But they didn’t define me as a fan. Tony did.
There’s always a moment of no return for the real fanatic, and I think usually it’s after a loss. It can’t really be after a win…after a win proves nothing. You reach the no return point after a bad thing with your team. I knew I really had become a Boston Bruins fan after the Blackhawks scored twice in 17 seconds to take the lead in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley cup finals with only a minute left on the clock. I came late to them too. I missed out on the drought breaking 2011 campaign. But I knew in my bones when that second goal went past Rask and that we had just lost…that it was now WE, not the Bruins and I but WE. I was in there with them from now on. Them and no one else. The same thing happened when Steven Gerard slipped and allowed Chelsea & the evil Jose Morinho to steal away the closest opportunity he’d ever had at winning the Premier league. I knew I really would Never Walk Alone again, Liverpool Football Club had stolen my heart forever.
For me and the Cowboys it was 2009. I haven’t ever rooted for another team but this was when that would become impossible, unthinkable…every other team would become dead to me. The Cowboys had just broken the playoff drought by trouncing the Eagles and I knew they were going to march into Minnesota and find a way to win. We had briefly halted the inevitable Marching saints just a month before thanks mostly to Demarcus Ware. I was confident. I was pumped.
Then I realized I didn’t own any cowboys anything…so I ran to a few department stores the morning of the game and luckily for me one of the local Kohl’s always carries Cowboys stuff. I looked at all of it and I remember thinking I really don’t want to spend much money and I don’t want something gaudy…and a grey shirt with 9 on the back popped out at me…but no that’s Romo! Nobody likes him, he’s a choker. To my shame I really thought those things. But I tried it on and it fit and it was on sale so I bought it. Then I went home and watched the Favre Vikings eat the Cowboys alive. It was awful. But I knew they weren’t The Dallas Cowboys anymore…they were my Cowboys. And Romo was my QB. And I learned to defend him constantly. Anytime anybody said anything anti Romo I had a stat ready to go like an arrow in a quiver. Or a counter argument.
“No Super Bowl rings! Therefore he sucks!”
My response: “Dan Marino never won a super bowl. Did Marino suck?”
“Oh…I guess not.”
But I didn’t realize just how much I had grown to love him until I got up for work a few days ago and started listening to my retinue of podcasts and heard his voice talking about how Dak Prescott was the Cowboys’ QB. And I started to cry, bitterly. Not so much because of how much I’m going to miss him but because I was moved by his courage. It’s not like he’s throwing himself on a grenade to protect his fellow soldiers…but it’s similar. It’s similar because it’s unselfish. Obviously soldiers give up their actual lives for each other but I really think Tony is trying to help this team win a Super Bowl right now by not playing, by not fighting, by not being dramatic. It really wasn’t dramatic. It was pretty matter of fact…but personal…and then it was done. It’s done. The future isn’t set, anything can happen but I really think this is probably the end of the Romo Star…I don’t think that Star has ever burned brighter then it has with Tony. The triplets had an amazing team. Landry was an amazing coach. Romo really has only had Witten. Until 2014 the only constants for Tony were Jason and injuries. Since 2006 Tony and Jason have been the Dallas Cowboys. That’s a whole decade. For a decade an undrafted QB and his tight end friend have been the single most valuable sports franchise on the earth. That’s truly amazing.
He doesn’t have Brady’s or the Manning’s rings. He doesn’t have their stats. But Romo will always have one thing that no one else in the NFL had for the last ten years: the starting position at Quarterback for THE Dallas Cowboys. For My Cowboys. Don Meredith, Roger Staubach, Danny White, Troy Aikman…Tony Romo has all their records beat and he wasn’t even drafted!
I can’t wait to see what more Dak can do. The prophet Ezekiel is making dry bones arise in Texas. Sean Lee might be the best LB in the NFL. Dez…makes Michael Irving look…boring. Our O line is a blue wall. I’m super excited to see what’s coming. But that doesn’t make the last ten years any less amazing.
If the Cowboys do make it all the way this year I know exactly what we’ll see: Jason and Tony…and the other Jason (I think he’s turned into a fantastic coach…and he Bledsoed Bum Phillips’ kid) standing on that platform full of joy, knowing this wasn’t just a season it was a decade on a rocky road. There’s really no telling what will happen, Football is the business of the crazy, but it’s all been great so far. Let’s keep going.”
So sad…what a great season…but it’s over. And it’s a good reminder that winning really isn’t the only thing. Fighting is the most important. Not giving up, not giving in. Getting back up and moving forward.
Marv Levy has the dubious distinction of losing 4 consecutive Super Bowls. He also has the grand distinction of being the only coach to coach in 4 consecutive Super Bowls. When they were going back for the third time a fan wrote Levy and said “I don’t want to go back coach, I can’t lose again. It’s too painful.” The great coach wrote back “I understand how you feel but I’m glad you don’t play on my team.” Only cowards are afraid of losing. You always risk losing. That’s the job of life. Getting good at losing. And getting good at building on the rubble of loss.
After each loss Levy brought this old stanza to his team:
“Fight on my men Sir Andrew Said,
A little I’m hurt but not yet slain,
I’ll lay here and bleed awhile,
Then I’ll arise and fight again.”
Bye Tony…I wish you luck wherever you go.