In the David Mamet film “State and Main”, Alec Baldwin plays a scummy movie star in his late 40s named Bob Berringer, who reminds himself constantly that “everyone has a hobby”. His hobby, while filming on location, is hooking up with local high school girls.
I have a hobby that is less devious, less dirty, but with the same voracious dedication. My hobby: I hate the Dallas Cowboys.
For one, I grew up in Philadelphia, supporting the Eagles during a heated rivalry with Dallas. My other team, the Pittsburgh Steelers battled the Cowboys in post-seasons when the Eagles were no good.
But more that regional bias can muster, there is a historic flair and –-some might say, arrogance— that the Dallas Cowboys have that irks us all.
First, there is that old worn out, beat-to-death slogan that the Cowboys are “America’s Team”. But if the Dallas Cowboys are America’s Team then it is only in the sense that McDonalds is America’s Restaurant, over-sold and sometimes in your face at every corner.
Plus, historically, when the Cowboys are having a great season they are obnoxious about it.
The last time Dallas won the Super Bowl, Super Bowl XXX against the Steelers (in 1996), they had a fantastic, dominant team. Deion Sanders capped off the win by stating, “We’re not glamorous, you all make us glamorous!”
It reminds me, here in Chicago, of what Northwestern Football does every decade or so when they're good. They roll out every Northwestern celebrity alumn from David Schwimmer to Cindy Crawford (who didn’t graduate), to Jerry Springer and the late Charlton Heston. I'm sure the NRA and Heston's agent will probably have him exhumed for the next bowl appearance.
In similar fashion, it is some of the little things that the Dallas Cowboys get away with that bugs us haters.
Take the fact that the Cowboys’1980s star quarterback, Danny White, doubled as a barefoot punter, demanding extra airtime so he could remove and replace his footwear. Thank God Nike and Adidas came up with a better shoe, eliminating the need for this sideshow. Current QB Tony Romo doesn’t show off his bare feet on special teams, but showboats in the same Cowboys tradition.
Worse, the Cowboys Cheerleaders did their own peevish reality TV show, about cheerleading tryouts, which seems less American Idol and more Not Another Teen Movie. Such TV ditzyness makes me want to grab a Joyce Carol Oates novel to save my wilting brain.
But does being irked by a sports team’s glamor constitute a “hobby”? I think so. A hobby requires dedication. Sports fans blow off work and family events to catch a game. They also collect meaningless statistics, memorabilia, sportswear, and emotions just the same.
My other past hobbies like collecting stamps (boring) and playing trombone (boring and geeky) didn’t measure up, and would later be abandoned. Yet, my hobby of hating Dallas has lasted my whole life.
Trouble is, my Cowboys-hating hobby is not totally logical. With dismay, I actually like some of the Cowboys’ defining elements and legends.
First, there’s Herschel Walker, my hero as a kid and one reason I began loving football. Exciting, yet humble, it didn’t hurt he saved someone from drowning right after winning the Heisman. The fact that he was later a Cowboy seemed to have been excused.
Then there’s Deion Sanders, whom I’ve never loved, but respected because of his talent for both football and baseball at the top level. Sanders’ flamboyance got him criticism from sports antagonists; and strangely, this got me rooting for the dogged sports star.
Roger Staubach, who played most of his career before I was born, elevated the game when long passes seemed new and experimental, and his savvy has been mimicked by every aspiring quarterback for decades since.
And then there is the epitome of the gentleman coach, Tom Landry, who helped turn the Cowboys from a farm team into an institution, bagging two Super Bowls, while leading the club to 20 consecutive winning seasons. He also invented the 4-3 defense, which is used by everybody.
Even Michael Strahan makes me laugh a bit on NFL Sunday broadcasts, with his laid back version of the studied TV smart guy.
Maybe these standouts are the only silver lining of a dark cloud that rains on rivals in Philly, The Meadowlands, Chicago and other sports towns with consistency. But there is a lot to be said about a club whose success has raised the standards and play of NFL Football, while riling up opposing fans with ire and indignation.
I never said my hobby of hating the Cowboys was sensible, rational or noble. But it’s all mine, and you can’t take that away from me.
Andy Frye writes about sports, fandom and life. He’s busy auditioning for an Andy Rooney-inspired role as Chicago Now’s resident sports curmudgeon.