Yes, that was the infamous date when all our hopes and dreams died. That was the day we lost in the post-season – again. The day the Giants walked into our stadium and took everything away from us. They doomed us to walk the barren desert that is the NFL offseason, with only an oasis or two to slake our thirst – free agency, the draft.
Then comes training camp. Players in pads, coaches barking plays and jobs are on the line. That’s what training camp signals. It’s the true demarcation point for the new Dallas Cowboys, the 2008 edition; a star-studded, big-expectations, very-confident group that is the best team on paper in the NFC. But training camp lacks one big thing. A true opponent. You go up against your teammates in camp but it never approaches the intensity of a true opponent, one who’s only mission on that day is to destroy you. Your health for the rest of the year doesn’t matter to them, they only care about beating you into a pulp.
That brings us all the way to this day. Roughly seven months between game situations for the Dallas Cowboys. From that last pass against the Giants - Tony Romo to a covered Terry Glenn that ended in a pick - to the first play tonight at , that's the journey we all walk as fans.
Preseason games aren’t real games. They don’t count; the best players are usually on the bench, teams aren’t showing their whole playbook, experiments are being run you’d never see in a regular game. So yeah, they’re not the real thing. But they are very real in one important aspect and you have to zoom in close instead of taking the thousand-foot view. Each singular play is run at full-speed against an opponent , who for those 10 seconds or so, has a regular season mentality. In that small, finite timeframe - for those 22 players on the field - it’s a regular season game. You can’t play at anything less than full-speed with a real opponent; the guy across from you will be going all-out and you’ll get hurt or cut (on your body or from the team) if you loaf it at all. Anything less than full-speed can get someone else on your team hurt. With the prize of a roster spot or more playing time on the line, even the fourth quarter means everything to those guys who are playing it. For those precious seconds between whistles, all their hopes and dreams are on the line.
So finally, tonight – we get to see our team take the field. This is the start. The casual fan might scoff and say its just preseason, but not me. Not here at BTB, where we spent the last seven months dissecting everything about last season, everything about the coming season, everything about the Dallas Cowboys universe that ever existed. In some ways though, we were just passing time – waiting for another season.
It may not count in the standings, but tonight really starts the 2008 season for me. I could say I’ve waited an eternity for this moment, but I’ve already told you it was only seven months. Still, it felt like eternity.
Dallas Cowboys football is back. All our hopes and dreams begin anew.