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TSB Oct 2012 GameOn
by Bobby Hawthorne
When we used to Cowboy up
Do I look like the jealous type? Well, I’m not. Sure, I’d love to have a sliver of Paul McCart- ney’s talent, charm and boyish good looks. I’d like to have his bank account too. But am I jealous of Paul McCartney?
Not really. If I’m jealous of anyone, it’s Maria Sharapova’s lingerie consultant. At least that was the case until I received an advance copy of Joe Nick Patoski’s fantastic book, “The Dallas Cowboys: The outrageous history of the biggest, loudest, most hated, best loved football team in America” (Little Brown & Co., 2012).
The more I’ve read, the more envious I’ve become. Envious and bitter and angry — angry because it apparently wasn’t enough for Joe Nick that I merely enjoy his book. No, I had to love it. I had to wish I’d written it. I had to wish I know what he knows, go where he goes. And I do.
Joe Nick has turned me into a wet wad of resentment because the book is that good. Here’s his description of the Cowboys’ lat- est digs in Arlington: “The giant dome sat, bloated and squat like a giant Transformer bulldog, in the middle of a 140-acre asphalt parking lot, a long spit from the part of Interstate 30 that’s identified by green signs bearing the profile of a fedora as the Tom Landry Highway.”
Snarky and spot-on. Joe Nick’s achievement is particularly humbling because I grew up in Longview while the Cowboys were morphing from doormat to doomsday. I rode the roller coaster up and down, up and down, so I know the story. I’ve pretty much lived it.
“The Cowboys’ problem is that they can’t stand prosperity,” my dad once told me, in one of his rare philosophical moments. He was as big a fan as I was, maybe bigger. After a Dallas loss, he’d tromp out to the garage, pop a Schlitz and the hood of the car and pre- tend to tinker with the engine until he sim- mered down in an hour or so.
How my mom put up with this, I’ll never know. She tried her best to maintain a strict Catholic household, so cursing was, natural- ly, forbidden. But on Sundays, all bets were off. If Staubach tossed an interception or Bob Hayes bobbled a sure touchdown pass, then we could blurt “damn,” and that was OK. Mom didn’t like it, but she understood. Ap- parently, God did too.
A loss ruined my day and generally the day after that. I watched the 1966 and 1967 losses to Green Bay, the Ice Bowl and Duane Thomas’ fumble on Baltimore’s goal line in the Blunder Bowl. I watched Bradshaw to Swann and Aikman to Irvin.
I stopped watching — and caring — when Jerry handed the car keys to Barry Switzer, or at least I thought I had. Joe Nick’s book has rekindled feelings I thought were long dead. Fact is, I miss the Cowboys. I miss what we had: heart-stopping ecstasy, gut- churning grief. It was real, visceral, atavistic. I miss caring. When Dallas creamed the Dol- phins in Super Bowl IV, I couldn’t contain myself. I sprinted up and down Whatley Road until I was exhausted.
Today, I’m no Pollyanna or purist about professional sports. It’s a messy business comprised of some guys I wouldn’t want standing on my front lawn. If I root for any-
one, it’s likely to be the New York Giants, an organization that reminds me of the old Cow- boys. The coach resembles a stern Irish priest, and the owner doesn’t cast himself in pizza ads, shucking and jiving like he’s just rolled out of the hood in a bulletproof Benz.
Not sure if you saw it, but it makes me miss Tex Schramm and Clint Murchison and Lee Roy Jordan. And it makes me appreciate guys like Paul McCartney even more. He has talent, charm, boyish good looks and a bil- lion or two in the bank, but most of all, he has class. I guess if I’m jealous of anything, that’s it. Well, that and Maria Sharapova’s lingerie consultant and, of course, Joe Nick too.
BOBBY HAWTHORNE is the author of “Longhorn Football” and “Home Field,” both published by The University of Texas Press. In 2005, he retired as director of academics for the University Interscholastic League.