I think it might be in order to explain a little bit why Trip and I love the Cowboys so much. I mean, I know there are Cowboy fans from all over the country and even the world, but for us Texas boys, they mean so much more. Let me develop that a bit.
I know football is a big deal in many parts of the country. But at the same time, how many places have been so fervently devoted to the pigskin that they produced a best selling novel, a big screen adaptation and a TV series based upon a High School football team? Yeah, I am talking about FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. Love it or hate it, the fact is that in small town Texas, football reigns supreme.
We often joke that if a burglar wanted to clean out a town, all he needed to do was wait until Friday evening and every home in town would be empty, as the whole town would be turned out to watch the local football team play. But few homes are burglarized since the robbers are at the game, too. It is big. Football is second only to God in most Texas homes - and not a distant second to most.
Growing up in such an environment has its consequence, both good and bad. Many schools started their weight training program as early as the third grade. Yeah, thats right. Even 7 and 8 year olds are preparing for the gridiron that won't come for nearly a decade. That was the sort of environment that Trip and I grew up in.
The fact is that few of us possess the talent and skill to play beyond High School. Fewer still will play beyond the small college level. But each and every one of us dreamed of playing major college ball (Hook 'em Horns) and in the pros. I can vividly recall nearly 25 years ago, as a sophomore playing football in Brownwood, TX (under legendary HS coach Gordon Wood) that a classmate had dropped football to concentrate on being in the band. I was flabbergasted. I would have rather been a third string ball holder rather than a first chair horn blower. I then found out he was originally from Illinois. Then I understood a little better. He wasn't 'one of us.' Football didn't mean the same thing.
So we poured our hearts out for a game that we loved. I moved later that sophomore year to a small town in the Texas hill country. Trip quickly became my best friend and we did dang near everything together along with our buddy Darren. Trip has been recalling some of our football experiences, and I hope you are enjoying them. He is probably too modest to really tell about himself, so I will indulge just a little and then get back to the topic.
Trip was our starting WR and later TE. But don't picture Jason Witten now. Trip didn't have that size. Trip was about 5'9" or so, weighing about 150 soaking wet. So you might have a hard time picturing him at TE. But even more than that, he also started at Nose Guard and 2 Technique. That right, some of us bigger guys (but none of us were really THAT big) played DE or LB, but scrawny Trip dug in right in the middle of the Defensive Line and caused more havoc in the interior line than most players twice his size. We had to play both ways all the time. We played nearly every play in the entire game. The only break I got in games was on the Kickoff team. I even played on Kickoff return. It was one of my favorite things to score, not only because we got points, but because I finally got a breather.
We were not an elite group of athletes. We were just a bunch of good ole boys who loved the game and played our hearts out. We had our eccentrics (Darren often carried a can of Copenhagen in his football pants and would put in a dip during the middle of the game) and our quirky fellows (Trip, does "bubbles, bubbles, bubbles" bring a flashback?). But every single one of us wanted to be in the middle of the action. We ran hard, hit hard and held nothing back.
It all came to an end the day after Thanksgiving, 1986 in Llano, TX. I had played competitive football for 8 seasons. But on that evening, in the playoffs, Bremond wiped the floor with us, 26-0. They had future University of Texas star Bo Robinson playing QB and DE. They had a feisty little noseguard named Billy Snell who had the honor of being the only DL who consistently beat me in a game. I can remember sitting outside the locker room, realizing that my playing days were gone and would never return and crying like a baby. My life had been focused upon playing football and I would never do it again, except in a park or pickup game somewhere.
But the game remains. I wasn't good enough to play after high school. But my love for the game remained. No longer could I experience the joy of playing and the camaraderie that exists between the players on a Texas HS football team. But I can still enjoy the game.
Now we were all fans of the Cowboys, but our love grew even deeper once our own playing days were done. Just as we hurt and cried when we lost, so we hurt when the Cowboys lose. We live vicariously through them. When they win, we win. Romo, TO, Roy Williams and the team does not just play for themselves. They have us on the field with them. We don't have to stretch our imaginations to say that "we won" or "we lost" depending upon how they do on any given Sunday. Our hearts have never left the playing field, though our bodies have long since gone on.
I feel the jolt of every hit and the thrill of every score. When I watch Dallas take the field, week after week, I run onto the field with them. They carry my dreams on their shoulders every time. Dreams that began so early in life that I can't remember a time that I didn't have them. It is like that horrible night against Bremond never happened.
That is why we love the Cowboys.