First, a disclaimer. I am not judging anyone. If anyone else thinks about their fanhood differently, I am not calling you a non-fan or a bad-fan or a hater or anything else.
Now, to the meat of what I want to say: I think a fan is someone who emotionally wants to believe that this team can improve, get better, be a contender, win. This team.
If I'm right, there are two types of behavior that are sort of beside the point.
1. a cool-headed, completely realistic, statistical prediction of which team is more likely to win (and why). Who cares? I mean, if I'm gambling I care, but otherwise, who cares? If I could predict it, the whole thing would be boring (like re-watching a game on replay). If I can't predict it, why pretend I can? I get that turnovers are statistically unreliable. Guess what? They're my favorite plays, full of gutsy effort to take advantage of those statistically unreliable moments. I get that redzone efficiency doesn't tend to stay steady. Guess what? I still care passionately, one game at a time, whether my Boys can stuff the other team and keep them out of the endzone--and whether they themselves can get that rock across the line!
2. a constant complaining that the Cowboys are the team that they are.At some point, if I want to root for Aaron Rodgers, I can always be a Green Bay fan. Who the hell cares what color his uniform is or whether he has a star on his helmet? If I want to root for Behlicheck (shudder), I can always be a Patriots fan. If I think Jerry Jones only drafts no-talent idiots, there are 31 other teams I can watch full of players that Jerry Jones didn't draft.
Bottom line: I'm a Cowboys fan. I want to watch, and root for, this team. Not the imaginary team I wish Jerry had drafted, led by the imaginary coach that I wish would replace Jason, starring the imaginary quarterback that I wish we would trade Romo for. I don't want all of our current guys gone, and new guys in their place. I don't want Rodgers for Romo; I want Romo to go out there, have the game of his life, and flat outplay Rodgers. I'm not stupid; I know there are other good teams out there. But I like this one. I'm a fan of this team--not just a fan of the uniforms they're wearing, and which I secretly wish the Packers were wearing instead.
Of course we're going to change over time. I liked it when Wade Phillips left. But part of the excitement in firing Coach Cupcake was that we weren't just trying to become the Packers or Patriots. We were developing a new coach from within, who promised to restore a Cowboy way. We ate it up. Many of us are still eating. We know he isn't the best coach in the NFL, or statistically likely to become the best coach in the NFL. But we believe he can be great--and want him to be great--and root for him to be great. We'll one day welcome new coaches, new players--I get that. It's O.K. to look elsewhere, even O.K. to trade some stars from time to time. But in general, we want THESE guys to be great--and believe they can be great--and root for them to be great. However statistically unlikely that is.
We have no power over the YPA or the general manager or the scouting or--well, anything. We don't have to make the statistically correct choices about the best strategy for building a team or calling plays, because, well, nobody who has any power is asking us. We watch because we like this team, we like to watch them try, we like to watch them grow, we like to hope they'll succeed. This quirky red-headed genius who's made some questionable calls. This fun-loving fatso who keeps us believing that this mediocre defense can achieve greatness. This dynamic offense with its epic fails. This exciting defense that falls apart sometimes (especially when Ware and Ratliff are both barely able to limp onto the field).
If I really thought this team wasn't worth watching, wasn't worth growing, wasn't worth trying, then I'd go root for the Packers until Jerry Jones finally dies and Garrett gets fired and Romo washes out and Ware gets traded and then I'd come back and watch a new Cowboys team, one that I could actually root for. Because to me, being a fan isn't about the color of the uniform. It's about the team. And I happen to like this one.