On New Year's Day, the writers and moderators here at BTB got to discussing feedback we have gotten from a few readers who truly enjoy the site as a place to read both articles and discussion about the Dallas Cowboys, but who are not members because they feel they don't have anything to add to the conversation. They expressed appreciation for the civil tone Dave has established and fiercely maintained. One added that this was one of the few sites he felt comfortable sharing with his young son.
We are very glad to hear that, but the idea that you have to have some kind of special football background to join in our comment threads is, well, totally wrong. As far as I can understand, the belief these people have is that they can't contribute to the discussion because they have never played the game, never had anyone really teach them about the Xs and Os, and just love to watch the Cowboys. Well, I have to argue with that stance just a bit. You see, five years ago, that perfectly described me. I have never played a down of organized football at any level (I was a band nerd), I didn't know the difference between 12 and 21 personnel, had no idea what single high or Tampa 2 coverage was, and had never paid any real attention to the Draft Combine.
It took me a while to get the nerve to join up, because, after all, what did I know? I started commenting a little, read a lot, paid more attention to what was going on in the games. And in a year and a half, I became a front page writer.
Everyone has something to contribute, and none of us has much in the way of formal training. I've asked my fellow writers and our mods to add their own stories here, because we want everyone to understand that this is a big tent we have here.
Dawn Macelli: My experience is the polar opposite of yours, Tom. My Dad coached football here in Texas, where the game is something of our state religion. I was surrounded by football and the Cowboys from the get-go. My earliest memory is the travesty commonly referred to as "The Catch". More to the point, that memory involves a certain young lady getting in trouble for a temper tantrum in response to that particular play.
Yeah, I got into some minor trouble, but it also got Dad to take me under his wing. He never had a son to pass his knowledge along to, so I guess the little tomboy was the next best thing. Not only did he allow me to go to practices and games with him, Dad took the time to teach me what was going on. Once when he took me to sign up for cheerleading I somehow managed to come home with shoulder pads and a helmet. Mom hit the roof and that was the end of my football career, at least as a player.
The love of the game never left me, and when Dad passed on, I inherited a pretty good library of books on various schemes and techniques. Those have been devoured many times over. I would like to think I learned something from everything I have read, and that by writing for Blogging The Boys I have been able to share a bit of my Dad's knowledge and passion for the game.
Rena: I "learned" football by being in the band in HS and college, plus being a fan and watching on TV with a occasional live game tossed in. BTB has greatly increased my understanding of the game.
I have no "formal" training at all in football. I simply loved it and watched it on TV, then live starting in HS where I went to all the games as I played trumpet in the band. I had no clue about the "X's" and "O's" when I joined BTB. I was simply a fan of the Boys who for decades have watched and cheered them on.
I didn't know, and still don't know, the difference between the personal groupings and what they are called "/hides." Honestly that far into the nuts and bolts isn't what I want to dig into. I just enjoy watching the flow of the game. Not to say I don't watch things like blocking, coverages, etc. I do, I just don't do the real technical stuff.
I do now however know what the gaps are named and why, the differences between the 1, 3, DT's, DE's and the LB's. That is directly gained from some of the stories y'all have written.
As you know I love the draft. I am mostly self taught there but it started from reading BTB and the draft articles. I found that I like to do research and dig stuff out to find that obscure guy that IMO would help the team by focusing on traits that I know we are looking for.
Jason: My experience is similar to Tom's. I played football in highschool and have always followed the Cowboys, but I never really studied the game. I loved following the news on football, but couldn't tell you a three-tech from a safety.
The turning point was actually joining and commenting at Blogging the Boys. I joined because I liked the feeling of camaraderie and fellowship. During the 2013 draft I got sucked into the great "Defensive line neglect" controversy, and decided that I should actually back up what I thought with facts. That led to my first fanpost, and from there I was hooked. I enjoyed studying more about the game and Cowboys history. The more I got involved at BtB, the more I learned about the game, the more it inspired me to learn more.
That's one of the greatest things about BtB. If doesn't matter where you're starting point of knowledge is, everyone wants to share what they know and our community really wants to help each other learn more about the game we love.
Scottmaui: I have never played football (other than college dorm intramurals) and have no formal background or experience in it. I just love the sport, and have for all my life.
You don't need to be any kind of expert or have any special knowledge to hang out with your friends, or at a sports bar, and talk about your favorite team. The way I look at it, BTB is basically just a group of friends hanging out in a virtual Cowboys sports bar. Just BYOB and don't cuss! But all opinions are valid and welcomed.
NYHorn: I became a football fan in 2009 and a full time Dallas fan in 2010. When I first came to BTB, I knew virtually nothing about football. Even so I began to comment and found that BTBers are some of the most open and patient people out there. Almost everything I know about football comes from Articles and Fanposts. However as great as the author's contributions are, more often than not it's the conversations with other members that really enhanced my knowledge. Come on in and comment. You'll be glad you did.
If there is a lesson here, it is that being able to read, watch, and learn is more important than years playing and/or coaching the game. An open mind is always a plus. Besides, if you check out the background of most of the writers who get paid to cover the Cowboys for major media outlets, I don't think you will find that they have any more "expertise" than we do. Just better access.
We take great pride in what we do. But we do it for the readers. The comments, Fanposts, and Fanshots are where you can join in, and where most of us got started on the path to becoming part of the BTB staff. As long as you are willing to abide by our rules for civility and decorum, you are welcome to join in and add your voice. It's not hard, just requiring a day's wait before you can post. Everyone who does join makes this a richer, more diverse, and more entertaining place to catch up on all things Cowboys.
And who knows where taking part can lead?