I have a confession to make; I just can't get my mind right for this game. I've been struggling with it all week and it still doesn't feel right. The stars are most definitely not aligning. Is anybody else having an issue like this? Don't tell me I'm out there all on my own.
Every time I tried to write something intelligent this week about the current state of the Cowboys or the upcoming game, I ran into a problem. I could come up with all kinds of subjects to discuss about the Cowboys, that wasn't a problem at all. The penalties, the shoddy play of the secondary, the 4-4 record for a team that obviously has more talent than that record represents. The list was long and I came up with new ideas everyday. But when I wanted to write about them I realized that I could see the problems, but I had no idea how to solve them. This edition of the Cowboys may be one of the most frustrating on record. I lived through the 5-11 years and the dreary teams we ran out onto the field each week, but at least I understood why those teams were so bad. The problems of our talent base were self-evident and the coaching was suspect. This year's team offers no easy answers. How can a team that statistically ranks in the top of the league in most of the major categories end up being the very definition of average - a 4-4 team?
That's not the only thing bothering me this week. The loss to Washington last week has taken the life out of me in so many ways. The momentum coming out of the Panthers game was tangible. Tony Romo had worked his magic and had rekindled the hopes of a team, a city and a national fan base. For a moment, a brief window in time, it appeared the Cowboys had finally figured out what ails them. The confidence going into the Redskins game was impossible to control - even though we should've known better. A struggling Redskins team that was in danger of losing its season without Santana Moss should've been easy pickings. Of course that was stupid, the very fact that they were desperate and playing at home, and are our most hated rival, all should have been warning signals. I ignored them. I knew somewhere deep in my brain that we could lose that game, but Romo-mania had deep-sixed my critical thinking faculties.
That's not the end of it, though. The way that we lost, the way that we were tortured into thinking we were going to win the game even though we had played horrible, that was the cruelest blow, one that still has me dazed. How could we go from a game-winning FG, to a blocked FG, to a facemask penalty, to an un-timed down, to a game-losing FG, all in about 7 seconds? All week I tried to watch other football games, the one's on Sunday afternoon and evening, the Rutgers/Louisville game. Every time they lined up for a FG, I wanted to hurl. Every time, I thought about Marc Colombo, Troy Vincent, 15-yard personal-foul penalties, missed opportunities and this season slowly slipping from my grasp. I couldn't even see a FG highlight this week without thinking about that horror show that was the end of the Redskins game. I think I need professional help.
Now, after that, I have to summon up the energy and the intestinal fortitude to get excited about the Cowboys again. I need to understand that if we lose this week, the hearses will be backing up to the loading dock at Valley Ranch. Worst of all, I have to do this for the Arizona Cardinals. A team so bad that it's hard to work up a proper hate for them. I'm no idiot; I understand what's at stake on Sunday. The Cowboys have to win this game, and that's not an overstated use of the word "have". If we lose this one, the proverbial fork will be stuck in us. It's not a case of being overconfident, a case of dismissing a 1-7 team as a patsy. The Cowboys are fully capable of blowing any game, any where. But there's this feeling that we should win, that if we play a game up to our talent-level, we will win. So we prolong our season another week, we keep hope alive.
That's all it means, a one-week reprieve if we win. I can't even think about losing, so say we win. What does it prove? Maybe something, maybe it proves that this team is still fighting, that it still has the desire to win. But does it do anything to make you think that we have what it takes to beat the good teams? Will you go into the game against the Colts with any more confidence if we beat the Cardinals 38-0? Maybe, maybe not. I don't know, and that's the problem. Right now, the Cowboys only inspire confusion and frustration.
Maybe sometime on Sunday morning the old familiar feelings will return, the anxiousness for the kickoff, the adrenaline starting to kick in. And maybe around 7:00 PM EST on Sunday I will be hungry for the next game while celebrating a win. Maybe the Cowboys performance will once again charge the batteries. Perhaps all I need is some separation from that gut-punch that was the Washington game. Maybe then the Cowboys will inspire me, and make me excited for the rest of the season to come.
Maybe. But right now, I'm just trying to get through the day without watching a FG.