I haven’t missed a Dallas Cowboys game since I was in fifth grade.
That’s 10 straight years. More than 160 games. Over 500 hours of football.
My dad and I have forced my mother to plan our family vacations around the Cowboys. Despite only spending a few weeks in Dallas every year, I managed to go to half of all the home games last year. In fact, I’ll be flying back to Dallas on Oct. 3 to see the Cowboys take on the Bengals. I almost went to yesterday’s game against the Eagles, but my dad thought that missing two days of school to see a football game was a little too much. He had to think about it, though.
My favorite holiday isn’t Thanksgiving or Christmas. It’s Cowboys Weekend, an annual tradition that’s been going strong for 12 years. Every year, about 30 of our family friends from all over the country — San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, San Antonio — meet back in Dallas for a weekend of shenanigans capped off by seeing the Cowboys play on Sunday.
The tradition started with a Dallas victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card round in 1996. The Cowboys haven’t won a playoff game since then. That’s 12 straight years. Twelve straight years of heartbreaking misery. From Dave Campo’s wetsuit to Tony Romo’s botched snap, I’ve been there for all of it.
After all the heartbreak, you would think I would be excited about this year. The Cowboys entered the season as the prohibitive favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Now, with Tom Brady out for the season and the Chargers choking in consecutive weeks, many experts are predicting the Cowboys to win it all.
Instead, I’m nervous as hell. If Dallas does go all the way, it’ll be a relief more than anything else. But if the Cowboys choke again, I don’t know how I’ll survive another painful offseason. I’m already dreading the months of looking at mock drafts, reading training-camp summaries and watching Terrell Owens defend his quarterback.
I know all the emotional investment is completely irrational. I am in no way connected to any of the members of the Cowboys organization. I get no concrete benefits from the Cowboys, win or lose. I could be doing much more productive things with the five to six hours a week I spend following the team.
When it really comes down to it, though, I don’t care how irrational it is. To paraphrase LeAnn Rimes, if loving the Cowboys is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. Because what I’ve realized is that being a true sports fan is like being in love. You can’t stop thinking about your team. You take valuable time out of your life to accommodate them. You justify doing ridiculous things like going shirtless in the middle of December, painting your entire body and spending $7 for a beer.
Being a sports fan — like being in love — is also an emotional roller coaster. For every moment of marital bliss (think Red Sox fans after the comeback against the Yankees in 2004), there’s a tale of infidelity and crushed expectations (think Clay Bennett moving the Seattle Sonics to Oklahoma City).
But at the end of the day, despite all the pain and agony and irrationality, millions of people around the country still stay married. And at the end of the day, despite all the pain and agony and irrationality, you will still find me and millions of others sitting in front of our TVs every Sunday.
Mr. Jerry Jones, I just can’t quit you.