As Dull as the Cowboys’ Offense

One of the best student papers I’ve ever graded was written by a young man at the University of North Texas who wrote about his abiding love, and occasional hatred, of the Dallas Cowboys. His was one of a trio of papers that semester that restored my faith (long sense in decline again) in freshman as intelligent human beings. The other two papers, one about film soundtracks and one about why women’s lingerie should always match (not as titillating as you might think), each earned an A, a feat that hasn’t happened since.

But the paper that really stands out (probably because the lingerie paper didn’t include photos) was the paper about the Cowboys. I’m reminded of his essay just about every Sunday during football season as my mood rises and falls each time Tony Romo drops back to pass–I’m just hoping he hits the right colored jersey.

The young man’s paper detailed his entire family’s Sunday rituals: Cowboys cereal bowls and coffee mugs, dad’s Cowboys tie, anxious glances at the Cowboys wrist watch as the minister droned on (he wrote that his family almost converted to Catholicism at one point so they could start going to Saturday mass), grey truck with blue seats–you get the picture. The first time I saw Dallas Cowboys toilet paper, I realize his is the family that would buy such a thing. When the ‘Boys win, it sits proudly on the shelf: when they lose, I’m sure there’s a strange satisfaction in putting it to its proper use.

I thought of the essay again yesterday afternoon as I drove toward Dallas. The Cowboys started at noon and I stuck around the house for the first quarter, but the drive loomed. Fortunately, the Cowboy’s play by play radio guys are great and coverage rolls throughout Texas. Except just outside Weatherford. As overtime started. I hit one of these dead spots where you lose radio service and phone service–the bermuda triangle of audio waves. In his essay, the young man wrote about his pain after a particularly hard fought Super Bowl loss. He pulled out his Dallas Cowboys pocket knife, flicked it open, prepared to slice his pennant to shreds. He soon realized the futility: the knife, bought when he was nine, was as dull as the Cowboys’ offense that day.

On my drive, the last thing I hear is the Cowboy’s driving toward the end zone, at the 9 yard line, ready for a field goal attempt to tie the game. And then it’s white noise, barely audible over my pained cursing. I can only imagine drivers passing me to the left, slowly edging away at 75 miles an hour, as they watch me bang on the wheel and push the seek button on the radio. Over. And Over. Because we all know that if you push it hard enough while cussing loudly it’s bound to work. Eventually.

Thirty-five minutes later, 5 miles outside Weatherford, I finally pick up the start of Cowboy’s post-game. And I know exactly how that young writer felt. “About all you can say,” the announcer begins, “is that at least they won. It was, in my memory, the best game between two bad teams we’ll see all year.” And you missed, I imagine them adding just for my benefit.

But I’m relieved nonetheless. The sun shines a bit brighter Monday morning and time heals the wounded soul whose post-game reaction, and over-reaction, dissects all the reasons the Cowboys were lucky.

After a Cowboys’ loss, it’s easy to declare them done, to vow never again will I waste three hours, and wonder when the Texans play. But sports fans have short memories and on Wed, I sneak a peak at the schedule, read the scouting reports, and make sure  the coffee mug is clean.

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About John Wegner
John Wegner is a Professor of English where he also serves as the Dean of the Freshman College. He and Lana, his wife, have been married over 25 years. They are the parents of two great sons who (so far) haven't ever needed bail money.

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