From Eddie LeBaron to Tony Romo.....Jerry Tubbs to Sean Lee.....Tom Franckhauser to Mo Claiborne.....L. G. DuPree to DeMarco Murray.....Frank Cone to Dan "Split'em" Bailey.....Billy Howton to Dez Bryant.....
When the Dallas Cowboys first took the field in 1960, you would have been hard-pressed to find anyone brave enough to predict what the future held for the organization. Rag-tags. Castoffs. Dregs. Those were some of the kinder words used to describe our Boys. But then again, they hadn't become our Boys just yet. They had to stumble through 5 or 6 seasons of progress. Or "process" if you prefer. Landry had to acquire the talent he needed to execute his systems and, more importantly, gain those players' trust in the effectiveness of said systems.
It wasn't easy. It never is when going against convention. But eventually, as those first few years began to pile on one another, something remarkable happened. Results. The wins were still difficult to come by, but the players---and the fans---noticed subtle changes. The Cowboys were becoming competitive. That crazy man in the wierd hat, with the funny ideas about how the game should be played, was winning over his detractors. Maybe he was actually on to something. You're damn right he was. And before Landry could say "I told you so", the team had become our Boys.
Man, did it ever.
It's a special feeling being a Cowboys fan. With so much success to hang our hats on, it's a small wonder we're not hunched under the weight of the team's historical awesomeness. Looking back at what the organization has accomplished, I find it interesting that my memories don't get cluttered with team achievements. I see players. Individuals. Larger than life figures that have defined how I view my fandom. Heroes.
That one player who sparked our interest all those years ago, could never be mistaken for anyone else. The familiar gait. The way one leg is cocked when his hands are on his hips. The way his shoulder pads stretch across his back. His image is burned into our brain. When we hear his name in passing, or are blessed with a quick clip or two, we smile. And are carried back to that time when watching him play meant everything. Nothing else mattered on Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys were the universe.....And that one player was at it's center.
For me, it was Roger Staubach. I think it's a safe assumption that a lot of posters here can claim the same. Roger affected many of us. It was his one true gift. He wasn't the greatest quarterback who ever played. We can admit that.....If we're honest with ourselves. His numbers would be considered on the mediocre side of average by today's standards. Of course, you could make a similar statement about most QBs from that era. The numbers were different because the game was different. But with Staubach, it wasn't about numbers. It never was. The best way I can describe it is.....He had a glow about him.
It may sound corny and overly dramatic, but that's how I remember him. That's how I'll always remember him. Didn't matter that every game wasn't a resounding victory. I was just as depressed after a loss then as I am now. But somehow, knowing Roger was going to be out there again the following week made each loss a little more bearable. He gave us strength when we were at our weakest. He placed us on his shoulders. Simply put, he was a beacon. That was his greatest asset.
I was fortunate enough to get to see Staubach play once. His next to last regular season game as a Cowboy. The fact that it was in Veterans Stadium is irrelevant. Even that nightmare of a venue couldn't dampen what turned out to be the highlight of my fandom. In retrospect, it wasn't much of a game. Dallas won what would have been a completely forgettable contest 24-17. The reason it will always be special? Because I was there. And after seeing him play countless times on TV, the funny thing is, he glowed even brighter in person.
Sometimes, when I'm feeling particularily nostalgic, I'll bemoan the fact that I can't remember every play from every game that Roger captained. It seems a shame that all I have to fuel my nostalgia are fading pictures and fleeting images. But isn't that all we really need from our heroes? The lack of any specifics doesn't lessen the love I have for the man. It might actually be a blessing. Perhaps not having the miscues and blunders to cloud my memories is what keeps Staubach elevated beyond the other Cowboys. It would be a mistake to remove all his human failings completely, I know. Because realizing he's flesh and blood, and subject to the same weaknesses as me, is exactly what makes him special. He overcame what drags most of us down. He put aside fear and uncertainty. He never asked for more than he was given. He left his mark on his own terms. And made a difference.....In my life, anyway.
When I see some of the young guys and gals roaming the halls of BTB, I can't help but feel a little jealous. They're too young to have experienced the best parts of Dallas Cowboys history. For that, I sympathize. No, what I'm jealous of is the fact that they're forming the memories of their own heroes as we speak. Thirty-five years from now, these are the players, today's Cowboys, whose names will cause them to reflect. These are the guys they'll tell their grandson about. These are their Cowboys. I still consider this to be my team. Always have and always will. Till the shroud has been pulled over my head and beyond. But my Cowboys have long since wandered into the sunset. All I can do, is sit back and watch as their names become shadows and their records fall. As a new generation dons the silver and blue, I'll embrace them with as much passion as a fan can muster. But when my head hits the pillow, I dream of a different time. I dream of number 12.
It makes you wonder. When the future becomes the past, and 2013 has been buried behind progression, how many of the men we watch Sunday night will have touched lives? How many will be remembered with a glow? How many will be remembered as heroes?
I've forgotten the game-to-game details of Staubach's career. The specifics, as I mentioned earlier, have eluded me. But what hasn't, is the emotion his image inspires. And it's that emotion that keeps us coming back. Even when our heroes have long since faded into the distance.