Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why Cowboys Fans Are Victims of Their Own Memories

I love talking on sports radio on a daily basis and being able to argue points and discuss trends.  It really beats a real job and I can tell you that I am one of the truly lucky people out there that doesn't mind weekends or vacations ending.  Do I like my gig?  Oh yes, I love my job.

But, one potential downside of the radio format is the inability to offer complete thoughts that make it clear what is meant in full context and with proper nuance.  Some things are black and white.  Other issues are in shades of gray, and therefore require a bit of discussion or elaboration to properly show the audience what is fully meant.

That is why having a blog helps, sometimes, for situations like this.

And, that is why, when a few weeks ago, we got back into the idea that Cowboys fans are entitled and even spoiled, I know for a fact that I bothered quite a few of you who consider your franchise to be amongst the most disappointing franchises in the league for what is almost 2 complete decades.  How could I say such a thing?

I often say such things because I don't believe there is a fan-base that is disgusted by wins like this fan-base is, as proven again by the win against the Vikings a few weeks back.  Usually, a win is torn apart like a loss, with each segment of the squad discussed in a way that by the end of the discussion makes you feel like we are examining the rubble of another loss.  The bar is high around here, they say.  But, that has nothing to do with the team - that has more to do with where the bar was left.  I have often said when you take away the losses and the ugly wins, Cowboys fans only feel good about themselves and their team about 3-4 times a year.  And, in my opinion, that is no way to enjoy football.

Let's just get to the point.  The franchise you love - the most valuable football franchise that there is, and a franchise that shovels in more cash than anyone every single year to become even more valuable - has a resume that includes 5 Super Bowl Titles, 10 Conference Championship Titles, 21 Division Titles, and 30 Playoff Appearances.  Those are all marks that compare favorably to nearly any franchise who has ever fielded a team.

When you are asked about your Hall of Fame QB, you have to ask which one?  Same for Hall of Fame RB, Hall of Fame WR, and so on.  Which legendary Cowboys coach are you referring to?  Which Super Bowl Title?  Which Parade? Which Dynasty?  And so on and so on.

Assuming you are 25 years old, you know exactly what I am talking about.  You know the feeling of witnessing a singular team that made the rest of the league look like they could never catch you.  If you are 30 years old, the first sports franchise you ever loved likely taught you that they would either win the Super Bowl every year, or at least fight valiantly to the end.

And here is what a Cowboys fan doesn't want to hear;  you have been hopelessly spoiled because of that success.  It has ruined football for many of you.  Now, if the Cowboys have a 10-win or yes, even a 13-win season like in 2007, nobody can enjoy it, because they simply are measured by Super Bowls. Unless this 13-win team closes the deal with a Super Bowl, this year won't even matter.  That happened.  The best Cowboys team in the last 2 decades had a large swath of its biggest fans doubting whether it was really a good year, because they knew, in the end, they likely weren't going to win the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl or Bust.  Either bring home the 6th Lombardi Trophy or you simply aren't going to rate with our heroes.  If I had a dollar for every time Dale Hansen told me that "in Dallas, we are about Super Bowls, not winning a division", then I would have a lot of Dale's money.  And he is the voice of this Cowboys generation.  A generation that can't watch a Cowboys' game without thinking of a better time.

But, see, that isn't reality.  Living like that is like the kid who moans and groans because every day is not his birthday party or his day at Disneyland.  Normal days stink compared to the best day of the year.  Why can't every day be that kid's birthday party?  Balloons and presents and cake!  Come on!

Whenever I talk about this topic, people jump to the following conclusions:

"So, Sturm, you want me to accept the mediocrity?"

"Bob, are you saying that Jerry Jones is doing a great job and I should be happy about 8-8?"

"You may be happy about this team, Bob, but I know good football when I see it!"

Not at all.  I don't want you to accept this team as Grade-A beef because it is not.  I don't want you to be happy about a team that hasn't been to the playoffs in 4 seasons, because that is not the point at all.

The point is that there is no more blessed fan-base in the NFL than the Dallas Cowboys fans.  Your franchise - if you are 50 years old - has given you Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman.  Two QBs that are so fantastically wonderful that Don Meredith, Danny White, and Tony Romo - guys who would be the best QB in several franchises histories don't even get a moment to celebrate behind those two giants of the sport.  Would Danny White be the best QB in Cleveland Browns history?  Would Tony Romo be the best Bears QB since Sid Luckman?

Do you know how many franchises have never had a RB as great as Tony Dorsett?  Almost all of them.  But, here you are, who just a few years later had Emmitt Smith break every record in the book.

In most cities, the statue for the great superstar WR would go up.  Here, you don't know how Bob Hayes, Drew Pearson, Michael Irvin, and someday, Dez Bryant would all fit on statues.

Basically, you were able to live about 3 straight decades at Disneyland.  You grew up in a mansion, and now that you have to move to a normal house with the rest of the populace, you feel slighted.  You are sure it can't get worse.  You are insulted.  Surely, there is no bigger insult than a normal 2,000 square foot house, right?  How do people live in these things?

Since Super Bowl 30, in all games played in the regular season and post-season, the Dallas Cowboys are 145-146.  People cite those numbers all of the time and have a laugh.  What a horrible mark.  They are exactly .500 for almost 300 games!  That is the epitome of disgraceful.  People use this number for funny photoshops and for rants about how bad Cowboys football is.  A .500 team?  I won't stand for it!

I see that number and I will admit that it isn't great.  But, I also want to make sure we are all on the same page here.  Because when I see people's reaction, I sense that they think there is no greater insult than .500.

Let me give you an example that will express my feelings.  Let's say you are a guy investing in the stock market with $10,000.  Now, you hope you can turn the $10,000 into $50,000.  That is the goal and the hope of what we are striving for.  But, if at the end of the time period, we still have $10,000, we certainly didn't achieve our goals, but we broke even.  Are we disappointed?  Yes.  But, we also need to acknowledge there is a worse fate.  We could have lost everything.  We could have gone all the way to $0.00.  See, there is a worse fate than breaking even.

Cleveland has a 77-158 record since Super Bowl 30 (they did not get their franchise back until 1999).  Detroit is 95-187 since 1996.  Arizona is 112-170.  Heck, the mighty Washington Redskins are 129-158 since the Cowboys last won a Super Bowl.

These are teams (and there are several more) that have certainly not "broken even".  They have demonstrated that even in your darkest era of your life, it could be way worse than .500 football.

Now, I know many of you are angry that I am using the Browns and Cardinals to show you it "could be even worse" and that certainly won't make anyone feel better, but it is important to establish that if 8-8 was such an insult, then why would several franchises consider 8-8 a rather successful season?

Because they don't have 5 Super Bowl Titles, 10 Conference Titles, and Hall of Famers at every position.  They don't understand what a dynasty is, and they certainly don't want to hear how your worse era would easily be their best.

Oh, you only get to go to Disneyland once a year?  That will really be meaningful to someone who has never been on an airplane.

When the Cowboys won Super Bowl 30, they had every right to consider themselves the #1 franchise in the Super Bowl era.  They had credentials that were better than San Francisco and Pittsburgh, and were on top of the world.  Of course, they hoped it would go on forever.  Who wouldn't?

Since then, in this most insulting 18 years since Super Bowl 30, only 10 teams have scaled the Mount Everest of the sport and won a Super Bowl.  It is not easy to win Super Bowls, even if your boyhood heroes made it look easy.

Here are the 10 champions during this period of time:  New England (3), Denver (2), Baltimore (2), Pittsburgh (2), Green Bay (2), New York Giants (2), St Louis, Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, New Orleans

Here is the list of 22 teams that have not won a championship since 1995:  Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota, San Francisco, Seattle, Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina, Tennessee, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, Buffalo, New York Jets, Cleveland, Cincinnati, San Diego, Kansas City, and Oakland.

That list is a bit longer, right?  And, some of those teams have never won a title.  Never.  As in, never.

It is tough to win in this league.  It is tough to win 8 games in a season.  It is much tougher to win 10.  It is nearly impossible to win 13 games in 1 season.  And if you get a Super Bowl every several decades, you have your share.

I tried to explain that to my son, who is personally devastated that Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. He was annoyed that it appears a 3rd year will pass for his team since the Super Bowl he enjoyed when he was 6 years old, all the way back in February 2011.

I explained to him that math dictates that each team should win a Super Bowl every 32 years and that his squad is due again when he turns 38 in the year 2042.  He wasn't any more interested in hearing that than you are.

I get it.  We all want to win the Super Bowl every couple years.  But, the math doesn't work for that, anymore than it did for the other teams in the NFL who stood there and watched the Cowboys win 3 Super Bowls in 4 years.  That hardly seems right!  I thought it was supposed to take 90 years to win 3 Super Bowls, dad!

It doesn't mean that anyone should lose hope.  It doesn't mean that you can't hope that this is that magical year where everything breaks right.  It certainly doesn't mean that you should claim Jerry Jones is doing a great job with his running of this franchise.  He isn't.

This is simply to remind people that 32 franchises start every year with hopes of winning it all.  Only one will.  Those odds are mighty difficult to overcome and the fact that your franchise has worked that magic several times in your lifetime means you are lucky, not cursed.

And if what you are seeing right now is the math equalizing a bit to pay off all of those debts from the 1970s-1990s, just know that the rest of the league doesn't want to hear how long-suffering Cowboys fans are.  They saw you living in that mansion down the street for a few decades while they were in cardboard boxes.

So, can a fan-base ever escape their past so they can try to enjoy the present again?  Is there a scenario where you can fall in love with a young Cowboys team that is trying to scale that mountain again, or will you stand there with your arms crossed and compare the next group to Aikman, Emmitt, and Michael?

Having a history is a very rare thing.  You won the lottery.  You went to Disneyland every week for a year, but now you are just a normal franchise.  Remember the great time and appreciate it, but if you compare every day to the best day of your life, you are not going to enjoy yourself very much.

It is a blessing and a curse.

Don't accept 8-8.  But, accept that 8-8 is a normal season of break-even football in the sport.  2-14 is a disaster.  And 14-2 is a dream that most people will never witness with their favorite team.  But, you have been there.

If, somehow the 2013 Dallas Cowboys are able to win a division title and host a playoff game, understand that it is ok to feel good about it.  No, certainly not a parade, but a feeling that your team accomplished something that is not easy to do.

As I always say, winning in the NFL is not easy.  It should be appreciated - even if it isn't another Super Bowl win.


Topher said...

Sturm, I love your writing and work but I disagree here. I disagree because that isn't what we are being sold. Let's start with one premise. 1 playoff win in 16 years when parity now rules is horrendous. Only 3 other teams in the league have 1 or 0 playoff wins in that same span. Yet Jerry still sells this team as if it is a championship team yearly. He makes excuses for his action. Also, when you claim to have talent and you can see talent, then 8-8 shouldn't be accepted. That goes on a coach or GM or someone. But there is no accountabilty compared to old regimes. Overall it's frustration built on the idea that Jerry now believes in moral victories vs. excellence. The reality is that if 8-8 wins a division and gets to the playoffs where a loss happens, Jerry sells that as acceptable vs seeing the 8-8 for what it is..mediocre and a bad division. We have a core, a coach and an owner/GM that is one big ball of "meh." What fun is that?

Unknown said...

Gotta go with Topher on this one. Until the 'surge' in 2014, the Dallas Cowboys were like The Beatles or Mel Gibson or how ever many examples you can think of that once set the world on fire, but are now just a memory of better times... and now often a joke. And pointing out the wealth and lush surroundings of the Cowboys might as well be references to Paris Hilton or some other kid whose fame and fortune were inherited and not earned. And most of my neliefs about the ineptitude and lunacy of Jerry Jones were proven in 2014 when he somehow magaged to back off and allow his coaches and staff, particularly Stephen, to do their jobs WITH AUTHORITY. The Dallas Cowboys have acted like kids at their grandparents' house, knowing that they can get away with murder (not aimed at Brent) as long as they can hide behind Granpaw Jerry. I'm hoping that he noticed what really happened, learned from it, and reliquishes more authority.
And, if not, here comes more 8-8.
and THAT is what sickens Cowboys' fans. Not so much that we're losing or average... but WHY we are.