When I hear those two words, I don't think of Troy or Emmitt or Michael or Deion or Moose. Not that their memory doesn't cause a surge of nostalgia in any Dallas fanatic. Those guys will always have a place in my heart as the men who pulled my favorite team from the mire of mediocrity and made the Cowboys relevant once again. No, they will always be remembered for that. But my "glory days" were forged much earlier.
Are you curious? I know I am. Let's see what happens next...
To understand why I hold these memories so sacred, you have to realize what it was like growing up as a football freak in the 1970's. As a kid, I never paid too much attention to college football. For me, football was riding my bike to the stadium a few blocks away on Thursday and Friday nights to watch the junior and senior high games. Mostly it was to hang out with my friends, chase the girls who weren't quite pretty enough to be cheerleaders, and cause just enough trouble to get yelled at, but not thrown out. Saturday was reserved for a rather brutal round of All-Against-All. The game had other names, but I'm sure everyone reading this knows what they are and what was involved in the contest. Torn clothes and blood were not only expected, but the norm. We wore our scars with pride and paraded them around like blue ribbons. God, we were idiots.
All of that stuff led up to my favorite day of the week, Sunday...Football Day...Dallas Cowboys Day. After church, me and whichever of my three brothers were interested in watching football that particular Sunday, would sit on the floor with a sandwich, chips and a glass of Kool-Aid (even then I was drinking the Kool-Aid), waiting. We knew the game was getting ready to start when my dad's snoring could be heard from the recliner behind us. Then, it was on. The television screen came alive with America's Team.
Back then, this was it. For a bonafide, NFL junkie, that three-plus hours Sunday afternoon was all you were going to get. There was no ESPN or NFL Network. There was no Google or Yahoo. Hell, computers were those big things with the spinning wheels of tape and wire that you saw on TV filling up entire rooms. All we had was ABC, CBS, NBC and, if we were lucky, on a good day, the local UHF station. Unfortunately, that consisted of some nut in a clown suit trying to sell used cars between episodes of The Jetsons and The Brady Bunch. That was it. It was pathetic compared to today's technology. But, you see, that's what made those games so special.
Those few hours on Sunday afternoon were the only time I could see the Dallas Cowboys. It was the only time I could see Roger Staubach toss the pill to Billy Joe DuPree and Preston Pearson. It was the only time I could see Robert Newhouse run over someone or Tony Dorsett run around them. It was the only time I could see The Manster and "Too Tall" decapitate a helpless QB. It was the only time I could see Butch Johnson do his endzone dance. It was the only time I could see the man in the funny hat, arms folded across his chest, stoic features revealing nothing behind those blue eyes. It was the only time in my life I ever felt like I belonged to anything. It was magical.
I apologize for the sappiness, but when you're on the wrong side of 45 and watching the days fly by at an increasingly rapid rate, the simpler things in life tend to bring you back to reality and force you to appreciate where you have been and where, in the future, you are headed. Sitting on that floor and watching those games molded me into the man I am today. The wife has managed to chip away the rough edges over the last 15 years and claim a hand in my development from brash, pig-headed neanderthal to relatively house-broken. I give her credit for the adult I've become, but the man in me is the work of the Dallas Cowboys. Without this team and the joy they have brought me, I shudder to think where I would have ended up. It truly is scary.
Most of you guys have the Troys and Emmitts and Michaels to keep you cozy when the house is silent and you're alone with your thoughts. And when you look back on your "glory days", those men will be there to comfort you and put a smile on your weary face. That is what this team does for us. We tolerate the frustrations and accept the disappointments because we know, when everything comes together, this year or the next, those exceptional athletes with the Star on their helmets will make us grin once again.
And maybe, just maybe, a generation from now, some middle-aged guy in Attumwa, Iowa will be bouncing a toddler on his knee and recounting the "glory days" of Tony Romo, Demarcus Ware, Jason Witten and company. He'll reach up and swat a fly from his balding pate and smile. In his mind, as in mine and yours, those men from years past are still on the field, playing the game we love, endowing us with the memories that make us who we are...Cowboys fans.