We are officially at the start of the NFL season, so it's probably time to start previewing the monster. The key to the NFL's success — other than fantasy football and gambling, of course — is the rabid nature of its fans. That is to say: You don't see a lot of people painting their faces for their favorite golfer.
We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, even a TV guy or two, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, why My Team Is Better Than Your Team. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever. We will be running two a day until the beginning of the NFL season.
And this is the last one. Thank you for enjoying at least 62 percent of them.
Right now: the Dallas Cowboys. Your author is Bryan Curtis.
Bryan Curtis is a staff writer at Slate and a contributor to Play, the New York Times sports magazine. His words are after the jump.
Explaining why the Cowboys are the best team in the NFL is an ideal assignment for a Cowboys fan, because, as I'm the first to admit, Cowboys fans are insufferably arrogant. There is Notre Dame arrogance and there is New York Yankees arrogance and there is Dallas Cowboys arrogance. I could use this space to make jokes about Michael Irvin and Barry Switzer and the "White House" ("We've got a little place over here where we're running some whores in and out, trying to be responsible, and we're criticized for that" — Nate Newton). But, really, I think this arrogance thing is important, so bear with me.
Pro football in Dallas is a truly sad and underwhelming experience. People go expecting Friday Night Lights. And you get to Texas Stadium, which looks like a dilapidated roller rink, with one notable feature: the hole in the roof. (Which is awful — try sitting on the sunny side for a September kickoff). Visiting teams like the Chiefs and Redskins bring fans that are better and louder than anyone on the home side. And everybody comes away thinking, "That place was like a tomb."
There is no knee-jerk "loyalty" in Dallas like there is in Pittsburgh. During the Jimmy Johnson's early years — 1-15 in 1989, and the "one" was thanks to Steve Freaking Walsh — the team routinely gave unsold tickets to local charities, lest the games not be televised locally. After the luster of three Super Bowls in four years wore off (and the rest of the team was retired, fired or placed in a medium-security prison), the same veil of disinterest fell during the seasons presided over by — it hurts to type this — Dave Campo and Chan Gailey. Bill Parcells and T.O. have brought ESPN back to Dallas. But I'm not sure anybody there really cares.
The thing about Dallas is that football is really natural part of everyday life, like Hollywood premieres in Los Angeles and brunch in New York. It is not some special treat that occurs on Sunday afternoons and drives everyone out of their gourds. It happens all weekend — first with the gazillion high schools on Friday nights, then with Texas and Texas A&M on Saturday afternoons, then, finally, with the Cowboys on Sundays. Each day produces a steadily diminishing level of enthusiasm.
It felt strange when I lived in Washington, D.C., where the whole town seemed to convulse with the performance of the Redskins. Ditto Philadelphia, where I watched last season's Monday night meltdown, when Donovan McNabb threw the ball to Roy Williams and the Eagles blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead in 21 seconds. Driving home and listening to WIP, I heard callers offering to break McNabb's legs. Maybe I run in civilized circles, but I have never heard anything like that about the Cowboys.
Here's my point: On the one hand, you have the special kind of arrogance bred by going to eight Super Bowls and winning five of them. And, on the other hand, you have the feeling that if the home team disappeared tomorrow, your football jones would be redirected toward the University of Texas or (for misguided souls) the University of Oklahoma or (even sadder still) Texas A&M University, not to mention one of the high-school programs that pay their coaches six-figure contracts. The Cowboys are wonderful and successful and, in a strange way, totally unnecessary.