Since this is the time of year for New Year’s resolutions, I thought I’d reflect on one that I made quietly, to myself, last year, which didn’t come close to turning out as planned.
I am a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, and I have been since 1975, when I was seven years old and saw a few of their games on TV as the team was en route to a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl X.
I am very intense about the team, especially on game day. Don’t waste your breath by telling me that it’s just a game, and that the team doesn’t care about me so I shouldn’t care about them. That’s not the way I’m wired.
For three to four hours every week during the National Football League season, I am fully locked into the game, and I take losses very, very hard. It’s only a 16-game season, so the only major sport where each game is more critical is college football, where one loss can derail an entire season. And no sport has a longer, more painful offseason than football. I’m still dealing with a fresh wound on that front this week, as I will not see another meaningful Cowboys game for eight months after a brutal loss to the New York Giants this past Sunday.
I have actually calmed down quite a bit, which some may find scary. In the mid-1990s, when the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four years, I was a total, complete asshole during games. I readily admit this. If I were at a bar rooting for a different team, I’d have wanted to kick my own ass.
But the combination of growing a little older and a little wiser (shut it!), and the fact that the Cowboys have only had one team over the past 16 years that I truly believed was a Super Bowl contender, has definitely mellowed me. I still take losses very hard, but I’ve really made an effort to cut down on trash-talking and back-and-forth with opposing fans and people who just hate the Cowboys.
So after a hideous 6-10 season last year, where the only place to go was up, I quietly decided to myself that I would not say anything derogatory about the Cowboys’ opponents, particularly on Facebook. While I made no effort whatsoever to hide the fact that I was still rooting hard for the team, I made it a point to identify teams as tough opponents, or tricky match-ups, as opposed to previous years, when, had Facebook been around, my status might have read, “Heading out to watch the Dallas Cowboys kick the ever-loving shit out of this team by about four touchdowns.”
Did it work? Did it cut down on any of the negative back-and-forth? Actually, the result was quite the opposite. Despite saying at the beginning of the season that I saw this year’s Cowboys as an 8-8 team (sadly, I was right on the mark), and despite not running my mouth (or my fingers, in the case of Facebook), I was on the receiving end of more abuse and more venom than in any previous season as a Cowboys fan. And it all came from people who I consider friends.
I admit to two exceptions to my rule. There was one week earlier in the season when the Cowboys won and every other team in the NFC East lost, so I posted something smart-assed along the lines of, “Everyone whose teams won in the NFC East, take one step forward. Not so fast, Eagles, Giants and Redskins fans!” And a friend posted a picture of the towels the Giants gave away this past Sunday, so I jokingly asked if Giants fans were waving the white flag of surrender already. I don’t consider either of those to be that inflammatory.
Yet the amount of venom directed toward my football team and myself, and the hypocrisy that accompanied it, was staggering. And texting me during a vital game that the Cowboys are losing to ask me if I’m having fun violates any sort of decency as a sports fan (although I don’t consider the person who did it to me this past Sunday to be a real sports fan, anyway, since my cats know more about football than she does).
Why do I say hypocrisy? Mainly for this reason: The same people who accuse me of being a front-runner because I root for the Cowboys also go out of their way to constantly point out that the Cowboys have just two playoff victories since winning Super Bowl XXX in January 1996. So, which is it? Make up your minds. Front-runners jump on the bandwagons of teams that are winning. How am I front-running by continuing to root for a team with two playoff wins in 16 years? Ask anyone who went to college with me what a front-runner I was during my senior year, when the Cowboys went 1-15, and I went to the Sports Page, a now-defunct sports bar near NYU, and begged them to put the Cowboys on one TV every single week.
The explanation I get involves the fact that the Cowboys were a championship team when I was growing up. This is true, and a valid point. I don’t feel like I should have to defend my choice of football teams, but I will, anyway. I grew up in a family that knew absolutely nothing about sports, nor had any interest in them. I didn’t have the dad or uncle who showed up at the house with Giants or Jets tickets and took me to games. I taught myself everything about sports. The Cowboys were on TV often back then, and I loved the way Roger Staubach played. Then, after having seen Tony Dorsett play for the University of Pittsburgh, when the Cowboys were able to swing a trade with the Seattle Seahawks and draft him, I was 100% hooked, and I still am.
I can’t tell you how many times people yell at me, “I grew up in New York (or New Jersey), and I’ve been a Giants (or Jets) fan my whole life.” Well, goody the fuck for you. What do you want: a medal, a cookie, or both? Not everyone grows up that way, and with football in particular, you always see people who root for out-of-area teams. Deal with it.
One of my favorite things I’ve been told this season — and I really wish I was making this up — is that I should convert and become a Giants fan. Really? Who the fuck do you people think you are? I was a Cowboys fan before I was friends with any of you, yet I should ditch a team I have spent more than 35 years rooting for and bleeding with because you don’t like them? Perhaps you’d like me to change religions, as well, or political affiliations? Is there anything else you don’t like about me? Please make a list, so I can change and be perfect like you. What fucking nerve.
Oh, and by the way, a lot of you shitheads really need to come up with some new material. Tony Homo just isn’t funny anymore. It may have been funny the first few times, and I did cringe when I realized what Tony Romo’s last name rhymed with, but it is old and tired, much like most of your comments and jokes this season. Abuse that is actually funny is a lot easier to take. None of the crap I read or listened to this season fell into that category. You people are just not funny. Work on that.
It got so ridiculous this season that people I haven’t talked to in months, or, in one case, more than 25 years (no exaggeration, high school) made it a point to rip into the Cowboys on my Facebook page or via text messages. Some of the venom came from people who aren’t even fans. I guarantee you a few of the people couldn’t name 10 Giants players. Yet they have nothing better to do than rip me and my team, and this is during a year when I stuck to my resolution to be as well behaved about football as possible.
Well, guess what, assholes? The season is over (for my team, anyway). And since trying to be gracious in both victory and defeat only brought more abuse my way, there’s really no point in sticking to that, is there? Next season, I am going to be my mid-1990s asshole of a Cowboys fan self. I don’t care if the team goes 2-14 or 14-2: I am running my mouth like a sewer from the opening kickoff on.
Being a Cowboys fan is part of who I am. When you became friends with me, you should have accepted that. If you can’t, and you want out, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. As I said, my loyalty to the Cowboys is older than any of my friendships. Plus, I have enough true friends who accept me for who I am, and who will always be true friends. If the fact that I’m a Cowboys fan bothers you so much, don’t be my friend. I will live, survive, and thrive just nicely without you. You probably won’t be missed.