By Mark Miller
As a North Texas resident for just five years and a Green Bay Packers fan for life (I promise not to rub it in about the December 15 game), I certainly have no expertise whatsoever into what it means to be a Dallas Cowboys fan.
I can’t directly tell you the psyche of these people who have endured enough emotional roller coasters to keep the psychiatric profession in business for many years to come. I’ve not personally experienced the highs of the eight Super Bowl appearances and five Super Bowl victories or the lows of the late 1980s and the past 18 years.
Fortunately, I know a bunch of people who have been through this ringer. And thanks to sports radio and social media, finding the pulse of the average fan today is easier than ever. So it was to those avenues I turned to when asked to write something about what has so long without even a chance at winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy done to the diehards who follow “America’s Team.”
First, I wondered who gave the Cowboys that moniker? I mean, what right do they have to call themselves that. Following small-town Green Bay better known back then as Ttletown we always thought the Packers were “America’s Team.” Turns out it was one of those deep-voiced announcers on highlight films from the 1970s that gave Dallas its title because of its frequent appearances on television back then.
So we can’t pin such bragging on Jerry Jones. But it’s pretty apparent that Cowboy fans today put plenty of blame on the team’s charismatic owner/general manager.
“You can’t win the Super Bowl with a part-time general manager,” said Jim King of New Braunfels, a lifelong Dallas fan whose dislike for Jones goes beyond that. “I lost my passion when Jerry Jones fired Tom Landry. My other ad been a longtime season ticket holder and sold them and I went from an ardent fan to a casual fan like so many others.”
Whether you listen to ESPN, The Fan, or The Ticket, hosts and callers alike seem to blame Jones for most of the team’s ills since he bought the team in 1989. They quickly forget that Landry’s last three teams of 1986-88 failed to even get to the .500 mark, much less to the playoffs.
It appears to an outsider like me that the team’s success between the 1970 and 1995 seasons – eight Super Bowls played in, five won – set a standard for a generation of fans that’s fallen far short ever since.
With only four playoff appearances in the past 13 years, exactly how has the Cowboys mediocrity affected the typical Cowboys fan? “I don’t make plans to watch the game like I used to and don’t have Cowboys’ watching parties like I did in the 90s,” said Carrollton’s Mike McCormick, who moved to Texas from Illinois in 1973. “If they’re on a Sunday or Monday night game, I’ll tape it and watch something else. I’ll follow it on Twitter to see if it’s worth turning on the game.”
On the message board at Dallascowboys.com the day after the loss to Green Bay, fan Blueberryicedcoffee said for the first time in his life, he didn’t watch the Cowboys. He went sledding instead.
“I’ve gotten to the point this season that I’m almost completely disinterested in the Cowboys,” he said. “I know there are a bunch of guys here in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who remember the glory days, and want the team to be dominant like that again. But I don’t remember that. If the last Cowboys Super Bowl victory was on January 28th, 1996, I was 12 days away from being 3 years old.” Blueberryicedcoffee points out that in his lifetime, the Cowboys have only won one playoff game that he can actually remember. “Come this off-season, I’ll regain my interest in the Cowboys,” he continued “I’ll research draft prospects like a mad man, and follow every move they make. But to watch the Cowboys totally collapse in every aspect of the game, and everyone just blame it on Tony Romo like usual, is tiresome and disheartening.”
A person named JP_Balfour mirrored those thoughts. “Sad thing is there’s an entire generation of fans like you out there,” he said. “I was born in 82 so I was in the prime of my childhood when the Cowboys were at their best in their history. Sad thing is…as diehard as I’ve been, I can feel my fandom starting to waiver. I actually didn’t even get mad at the end yesterday (against the Packers). It was expected. This team is losing me, albeit slowly, but they are losing me nonetheless. It would have been easier if we were 4-12 and a young team building up…at least that would give me excitement. All this team does now is give me an empty feeling year after year.”
At least the Cowboys aren’t like my favorite pro basketball team, the Milwaukee Bucks. With just one National Basketball Association championship (1971) and a handful of conference finals appearances (the last in 2001), they have for years fallen into the black hole of irrelevancy. Too many fans show up dressed up as empty seats or don’t make much noise when they are there.
The same held true for the football Cardinals when they were located in St. Louis. They always seemed to finish somewhere either side of .500 and hardly ever made the playoffs. Only after they moved to Arizona did that franchise come back on the national radar and appear in a Super Bowl.
Since the Cowboys continue performing to standing-room-only crowds and will not be leaving Arlington any time soon, what will it take for them to return to their glory days? Better players say most people, ones preferably acquired by someone other than Jones.
“As long as Jerry Jones is calling the shots we won’t be deep enough to go very far,” King said. “We can’t afford to have injuries like some folks can.”
The Colony’s Chris Broerman feels the same way. “It goes back to the general manager and his decisions,” Broerman said. “Romo is doing all he can. Maybe he’s trying too hard because he has to do too much. The problem is his (Jones’) boys are in the business too. They could never get a job in the league anywhere else.”
Talk shows before the Green Bay game also discussed the lack of depth. Jones received blame for not stocking enough high draft picks to provide quality back ups.
One host on The Ticket went as far as to suggest Jason Garrett would make a better general manager than a head coach. Of course as long as the Jones family runs the show, it’s likely nobody outside the clan will be in charge.
So history will ultimately tell us if that’s good or bad for the Dallas Cowboys and their fans.