The other day I bumped into a guy I've known most of my life. He's a pretty decent person on the whole, just not someone I enjoy running into. Loud. Boisterous. In your face. Always poking and prodding and grabbing me when he talks. That's bad enough, but it's nose-to-nose with him. How did Seinfeld put it? A "close talker"? Being extremely claustrophobic, that kind of interaction freaks me out to begin with. Throw in the noise and the spittle and...well, let's just say it's never pleasant. This time especially.
The Dez thing had just kicked up and for some reason, whenever I run into him, he always has to give me crap about the Cowboys. So, he was blasting Mr. Bryant with both barrels. I stuck with the "wait until the whole story comes out" defense and that seemed to quiet him down enough for me to make my getaway. As I was trying to back away, explaining I had people waiting on me, which I did, my little buddy insisted on telling me a joke. I made it clear I only had a minute and let him indulge me:
You're given a gun with two bullets and thrown into a pit with an angry bear, a hungry lion and a Dallas Cowboys fan. Who do you shoot and why? Answer: You shoot the Dallas Cowboys fan twice. Why? Because an angry bear and a hungry lion can be reasoned with.
My reaction? I punched him in his vulva, picked him up and snapped his spine over my knee. Actually, I chuckled politely and wandered off while he was rolling around on the ground laughing. You would have thought Michael Vick had just been named ASPCA's Humanitarian of the Year the way he was carrying on. I left him to his hysterics and went about the rest of my day.
The problem I had, no matter how busy I was, no matter how much my mind was occupied with other things, that stupid joke kept popping into my head. And the more I thought about it, the madder I got. Ridiculous, right? Why would something so silly get under my skin and fester like that? At first, I thought it was because of the guy telling the joke and how he has always had a way of pressing my buttons. However, the more I studied on it, the more I realized my agitation stemmed from something different. Something, it turned out, that made me take a hard look at not only myself, but how other people view me---the way they view me as a person, and as a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. And, as it turns out, the two aren't mutually exclusive.
Buckle up, buttercups. This could get rough...
The punchline of the joke implies that Cowboys fans are unwilling to accept the reality of their team's successes or failures. And because Cowboys fans are specifically targeted, one can assume this ascertion applies to them more than the fans of other teams. Is that fair? Is it fair to single out us for being loyal, devoted followers of the royal blue and silver? Other teams have equally fanatical fans. Why aren't they viewed the same as us?
I believe it has to do with the way most people feel about the Dallas Cowboys as a team. While we cheer for the most popular organization in the league, we're also cheering for the most hated. And whether it's fair or not, that hatred trickles down from the owner to the players to the fans. Us.
What justifies that hatred? It could be a lot of different things. Without trying to sound pompous, I think jealousy plays a major part. Very few teams, if any, in the league have enjoyed the level of success of the Cowboys. People revel in rooting for the underdog, and despite the last sixteen years, Dallas is still viewed by most as an elite organization. While their history of success has garnered the lion's share of fans, it has also targeted the Cowboys as a league villian. I've actually had conversations with fans of other teams who claim if their favorite team loses, their week of football is still deemed a success if the Dallas Cowboys lose. These are not fans of division, or even conference rivals. Just random fans who's team's success is no way helped or hindered by what happens with the Cowboys. Yet these people harbor that much anymosity. How sick is that?
I've got friends who are fans of Tampa Bay, Miami, New Orleans, Atlanta, Oakland, Denver, New England, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, to name a few. And when the topic of conversation turns to football, as it usually does this time of year, I find I'm inevitably defending myself, and my team, against all of them. It seems the one thing on which fans of all teams in the NFL can agree, is that the Dallas Cowboys are evil.
It's not something I'm just discovering. I've been a fan since the mid-70's and have had my nose bloodied more than once because of my devotion to this team. Now that I'm older, I find it easier to shoot a few caustic barbs in their direction and walk away. Not that I still don't want to drop gloves, but with age comes an aversion to pain---the unnatural pain caused by fists and teeth. The normal pain of bad knees and herniated discs I can live with.
I've always been under the impression that the confrontations with fans of other teams was because of their aggression towards the Dallas Cowboys. But looking back, at least with the ones I can remember, the arguments may have been escalated by me. That's what that stupid joke made me realize. I've never thought of myself as that kind of person. Working in the construction industry, I've had to deal with some real pieces of...work. But that's business. Football's a game. Granted, it's a game that ignites the best, and worst, kinds of passions in it's fans, but it's still just a game. And that's how it should be treated.
Am I really one of those "unreasonable" Dallas Cowboys fans? Are any of us? Does it make us bad people to expect one of the most celebrated organizations in professional sports to live up to that reputation? Maybe we are elitists. Obnoxious. Arrogant. Maybe we are prone to look down our noses at the fans of those other teams. Given our history, maybe we're entitled to puff our chests a little more. If wanting---perhaps I should say "expecting"---our favorite team to do well because of what they've done in the past puts us in an unkind light, so be it.
I have no intentions of seeking the scuffles. At this point in my life, I have more interesting activities to occupy my time. Every evening I go home to a beautiful wife and a house full of whatever nieces and nephews have managed to sneak their way in. We've got dogs and cats and birds and a rather troublesome ferret named Major Frank Burns. It's noisy and frantic and seldom without some kind of laughter-filled shenanigans going on. I wouldn't change a thing.
So if someone wants to label me for being a Cowboys fan, more power to 'em. And if they catch me in the wrong kind of mood, maybe I'll let them know what I think of them and their pathetic little team. If that makes me "unreasonable" in their eyes, too bad. Because I will never stop defending the Star. I've got scars from nearly forty years of battles with these yahoos. I wrap those scars around me like armor. Impenetrable armor.
Like I said before, I don't look for the arguments anymore. But if push comes to shove, I won't back down either. Short of anything physical, I'll do what I must to defend my team. As we all should.
You know, the more I think about it, I guess the joke was pretty accurate after all. I guess reason does escape me when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys. And, despite how I was feeling earlier, I'm OK with that.