I quit dating a few years ago. I simply grew weary of the process of getting my hopes up about a potential relationship, only to be disappointed when things didn't work out. It didn't matter if it was a case of the woman in question not meeting my expectations, or me not living up to hers, in the end, the outcome was always the same, and I'd be right back where I started. I haven't completely given up on the idea of meeting "that perfect someone" if by some chance, I should be so fortunate, but I decided I wasn't going to try to force the issue anymore. I resigned myself to the idea that at my age, the odds were against me, and that in all likelihood it wasn't going to happen. Now, even though I no longer enjoy the excitement or anticipation of a first date, or a first kiss, I'm also no longer getting my heart torn out of my chest on a regular basis either, and that's a trade I'm willing to make.
I found myself thinking about this after the Dallas Cowboys' soul crushing, last minute loss to the Detroit Lions this past Sunday. In years gone by, when the Cowboys were consistently competitive, and acknowledged as one of the premier teams in the league, I used to eagerly await their games and I would actually be as nervous beforehand as if I was playing in the game myself. I'd go wild over every completed pass, or long run, and I would yell and scream in celebration of each sack, or tackle for a loss, and a pick six would send me into orbit! When the Cowboys won, it would set a positive tone for my whole week, and on those rare occasions when they lost, my despair was tempered by the sure knowledge that the team would learn from their mistakes and bounce back quickly. If they should happen to lose to a division opponent, I felt certain that the Cowboys would turn the tables on them the next time around. Such was the depth of my devotion to this team, sprung from a family tradition instilled in me by my father that started back when Tom Landry strung together twenty consecutive winning seasons, and reinforced later when Jimmy Johnson's teams dominated the entire league during the early part of the nineties.
Since those glorious days, the club has been plagued by one disappointment after another. Instead of building upon its reputation as a model franchise, the Dallas Cowboys of today are more notable for their flashy marketing in spite of their remarkable mediocrity, having recently posted back to back 8-8 seasons, which is consistent with their record (as of last Sunday) of 132-132 since 1997. Because this team has let me down so consistently over the past decade and a half, I find myself constantly expecting the worst, and waiting for the other shoe to drop even when the team appears to be doing well. I keep holding back hope, waiting for disaster to strike, and inevitably, it always does. Watching games now, I'm more tense than excited, and I find I enjoy their victories more when I replay them on my DVR than I did watching live in real time, because I no longer allow myself to get my hopes up, for fear that they'll be dashed to pieces once again.
That's exactly what happened in the Detroit game. Despite the four turnovers by the overachieving defense, and the sputtering offense finally coming to life in the second half, I kept doing the math, and that little voice in my head kept saying "They're not out of the woods yet." Sure enough, through a series of small, seemingly insignificant and unrelated events, a penalty here, a missed tackle there, the Cowboys were unable to run out the clock, and the Lions came back to steal a victory with no time outs and less than two minutes to go. Another case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory for the Cowboys, who are getting very creative at finding new ways to lose.
This time, however, was different for me. I felt more numb than anything else, perhaps as a result of my emotional detachment that I have perfected over these recent years in order to spare myself the depression that once would linger for days after a loss like this. Now, it's not all that shocking, or even unexpected, like seeing a movie with a bad ending again, where everybody dies. I certainly didn't want the game to end the way it did, but I wasn't surprised by the outcome either. It's pointless to try to assign blame for the state of the Cowboys to one person (even Jerry) or to point to any particular area of the team, or the organization, because there's plenty to go around after these last fifteen years. I'm not giving up on the team, but I'm just not as emotionally invested in them as I once was, and that's the real shame of it all.
I still love the Cowboys, just like I still love women, but in the same way I made my decision to quit dating, I simply refuse to put myself in a position where the Cowboys can break my heart anymore. I used to live and die with the team, but no longer. Now, if they win, great. I'll be happy for them, and I'll cheer for them just like I always have, but if they don't, my life will go on, and I'm not going to let their misfortunes affect me in a negative way. We can still be friends, and we'll always have those five Superbowls, but as of now I'm breaking up with the Dallas Cowboys. Sorry, Cowboys. It's not you, it's me.
Well, actually it IS you.