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What It Means To Be A Dallas Cowboys Fan

Following the Star is about more than football. It's about family.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It's the summer after the second grade, and I'm spending a month with my biological dad. My parents had divorced earlier that year and this is the first time I've spent with him since. My dad's an alcoholic. He spends all day working, and then comes home for about an hour, eats a quick meal (there's not much, if memory serves I lived on toast with gravy and pancakes with applesauce that summer). After he eats he heads out to the bar. Sometimes he takes me with him and I spend the night sitting on a bar stool, scared to death of all the loud people. Sometimes he leaves me home, and I spend the night hiding under my blankets scared of the dark.

Then one Sunday he doesn't leave. Instead he tells me we're going over to my Grandma's house. She's cooked breakfast, and we sit down and eat like a family. Then we all go into the living room and turn on the TV (my dad doesn't have one, so I'm pretty darn excited about this), and I ask my dad what we're going to watch. He tells me that it's something called "pre-season" and that our family has a tradition of getting together every Sunday to watch the Cowboys. I don't remember anything about the game, and I really didn't pay much attention (it would be years before I would get interested in football). But for the first time that summer I felt like I had my family again. And I wasn't scared.

It's the Christmas break of my eighth grade year and I'm living in a little camper with my step-dad Stuart. We're moving back to Texas in a few weeks, and my mom has been gone for a few weeks setting things up. The trailer is a battleground. Stuart was a violent guy, towards both me and my mom. I was a pretty bookish kid, overweight, a nerd. Stuart was a roughneck, with a roughneck's sensibilities. It was inevitable we would clash. He would leave me in the trailer during the day, and go out on location for work. When he came home we'd eat, then turn the TV on and sit in silence until one of us couldn't take the tension anymore and went to bed.

One Monday night Stuart was flipping through the channels and Monday Night Football was on. Stuart paused on the station, then looked at me. I knew he was expecting me to say I didn't want to watch football. But I was starting to get interested in the game, and I told him it was fine. Warren Moon was playing for the Vikings. We watched in silence for a while, then Moon threw an interception. Stuart started telling me he was always scared when Moon played the Cowboys, because Moon was a quarterback who would play horrible all game long, then make a play that killed you. Then he started telling me about growing up in Cuthand (where we would be moving shortly), and watching the Cowboys with his dad. That next Sunday he and I watched the Cowboys play. And the Sunday after that.  And then every Sunday after that until I graduated high-school. There was still a lot of tension between us...but we had finally found some common ground. We were never allies, but my step-dad and I were no longer enemies.

It's 2003 and I'm scared of life. I'm at my first duty station, after finishing basic and tech school. I know it's going to be a while before I'll see my friends and family again. My two best friends also joined the military, and we're scattered across the country. I've never been good at making friends, and I'm lonely and scared that I'm not going to make it "in the real world". I'm sitting down getting ready to watch Dallas lose to Atlanta on opening weekend. About halfway through the game my buddy Ryan calls me from New York, complaining about Aveion Cason. Not two minutes later my other best friend Phillip calls from San Antonio to tell me how much Quincy Carter sucks. Eventually we get the bright idea to do a three-way call. Thus began a tradition that lasted for the next decade. Three guys willingly spend all Sunday on the phone, talking about the Cowboys. These calls traveled the whole of the United States. In 2004 Ryan moved to San Diego. In 2006 Phillip and I both moved back to Texas. In 2007 I moved to Montana. In 2009 I was in Seattle, Phillip was in Montana and Ryan was in Texas. In 2011 I was in Tampa.  Last year I was back in Montana, Phillip was in Utah, and Ryan was in Texas. But no matter where we were, I spent every Sunday watching the Cowboys with my best friends.

It's 2006 and I've hit rock bottom. I had just been medically discharged from the Air Force for alcohol dependence. I didn't transition back to the civilian world well. I ended up homeless, sleeping on a park bench. I was trying to turn my life around, but it was as struggle. Finally in September my buddy Phillip got me a big break; he convinced a local college to give me a scholarship to their speech department. I got a job doing the overnight shift at a gas station. And a month later a guy named Tony Romo got his first start with the Dallas Cowboys. I remember reading about it while I was at work. I started buying a Dallas Morning News every morning and cutting out the Romo articles and scrap-booking them. As Romo was turning around the Cowboys I was turning around my life. While Romo was leading his team to the playoffs, I was winning a national debate championship. While Romo was guiding the Boys to the #1 seed in the NFC, I was moving to Montana, and starting a new job as a casino manger. My redemption and the Cowboys were linked.

It's 2013 and I'm in a rut. I'm in my second year back in school, which is pretty awkward; I'm older than everyone and it's just weird fitting in. My best friend and his family had just moved to a different state. My mom died a few years earlier and I pretty much lost contact with the rest of my family. I had just gotten out of a fairly long relationship. I was lonely. Then I stumbled across a blog named Blogging The Boys (thanks to Sports Illustrated for helping me find this place). I started reading the comments. I enjoyed the sense of camaraderie, the inside jokes, the macking. Tentatively at first, but with more regularity, I started commenting myself. Now I feel like BTB is almost a second home.

Because that's what the Star means to me. Winning is nice, and the history of excellence is, well, excellent. But that's not why I love the Cowboys. I love the Cowboys because the star means home. It means coming together with family.  It means no matter where you are in the world, from Germany to Thailand, you're part of something bigger than yourself. You're part of the Cowboys family.  For someone like me, who never really had a great family, that's a powerful thing.

And that's why I honor the Star.

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