Last week, my daughter Abby and her fiancé Mark, drove from their Central Florida apartment to Tampa for a Buccaneers game. Mark works in the professional sports industry and was able to get tickets. Overall, it seemed like a nice way for a young couple to spend a Sunday afternoon in mid-November. Sadly, this event was a harbinger of a significantly deeper concern about their upcoming nuptials. It seems that Mark is a Dallas Cowboys fan.
Abby posted this pre-game photo of the happy couple on Instagram. As my naïve wife bounded over to gleefully show me the picture on her phone, I shook my head in disgust.
“Look at her shirt,” she said, “isn’t it funny?”
I was not amused. While I understood the humor in the “married” bit, my only satisfaction was the realization that it was not too late for her to extract herself from this mess. What my wife didn’t get was that the truly disturbing part of the photo was what Mark was wearing. Three prominent Cowboys have worn the number 88 throughout the years. None of them can be considered role models.
The current #88, Dez Bryant is about an 8.5 out of 10 on the batshit meter. The length, consistency, and variety of his suspendable offenses is remarkable for a man of only 27 years of age. In his defense, he did get off to an early start with an arrest for selling crack when he was eight years old.
The next candidate, Hall-of-famer (!) Michael Irvin, has had several drug-related and sexual assault related arrests over the years. At his 30th birthday party, he was found lying on the floor, covered in cocaine, with multiple strippers performing sex acts on him. Mark had a birthday last month. Now I am sorry that I missed the party.
Drew Pearson was a choirboy compared to his fellow #88s. He only fell asleep behind the wheel of a car leading to an accident that took the life of his younger brother. I later found out that this was indeed a Dez Bryant jersey, but that Mark had received it as a gift rather than choosing it himself. Still, it has caused me to reconsider the handgun I was going to get him for Christmas.
You may think that I have some deep-seated hatred for the Cowboys. You would be correct. I do indeed hate the Cowboys. But I do not agree with those who label the Cowboy franchise as arrogant. They have been very smart and very successful over the years. What many consider to be arrogance, I look at as a painful reality. It’s the fans and the media who have dubbed them “America’s Team”. My problem is that rooting for the Cowboys is like rooting for Amazon, or Walmart, or gravity. It’s just too easy.
When I met Mark’s parents, who raised him in Schenectady (it’s either in upstate New York or Southern Canada, I believe), I found that they were all New York Giants fans. Mark chose the Cowboys to be different. This is something that I can respect. I like free choice and a desire to not follow the herd.
“Okay, son. I know you don’t want to go into the family business. Follow your dream. Try being a roadie for a year, maybe two. If it doesn’t work out, you always have a place here at Halliburton.”
But the Cowboys?
“Okay, son. I know you don’t want to go into the family business. Follow your dream. Overthrow that Central American government and become the military despot that you were born to be.”
Since I apparently could not blame Mark’s parents, I reached out to my friend Jimmy for advice. I worked with Jimmy for nineteen years in Northern New Jersey, where he was a New York Giants fan and season ticket holder. I knew this because he would often offer me the opportunity to buy his tickets to games at face value, primarily during the exhibition season and in late December against lousy teams. Jimmy has been married for thirty-seven years to Marilyn, who happens to be a dyed-in-the-wool Cowboys fan. They have experienced eight Cowboy Super Bowls including five victories, five Giants Super Bowls including four victories, and decades of seasons with two big rivalry games per year.
“Jimmy, how have you dealt with this for so many years, and rival teams no less?”
“She’s crazy. It’s just something I’ve learned to live with. Not Dez Bryant crazy, of course.”
“You mean eccentric?”
“No, Browns fans are eccentric and certainly not psycho-crazy, like Eagles fans. Just a mild crazy, I guess.”
Marilyn is one of the sweetest people I know, so I guess Abby can deal with mild crazy. Still, Jimmy and Marilyn have no kids. It’s the future grandchildren that I am most worried about. Anyone can laugh off a misdirected son-in-law wearing a Cowboy jersey, but on a child?
When I was young, I would have liked nothing more than to grow up to be Al Weis, the extremely mediocre second basemen of the New York Mets. Back then, we knew little of the players off the field. Once during the game, Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy, or Lindsey Nelson would inform the viewing audience that blah-blah player works for a beer distributor during the off-season or so-and-so sells insurance. When my son was young, the Mets had a long string of past and future all-stars at second base, but each was known as a grade A screwball. If my son came home and told me that he wanted to be Jeff Kent, Carlos Baerga, or Juan Samuel, I would have immediately taken him to a child psychologist.
My friend Tyrone hates almost all of today’s players but still loves sports.
“It gets tougher all the time,” he says, “I hate the players but love the game. We’re actually just rooting for the laundry at this point.”
I suppose he’s right. A little unsightly laundry won’t hurt my future grandchildren. Maybe that’s Mark’s plan all along. With both his parents and Abby’s parents being Cowboy haters, Abby and Mark will probably never have to lay out a dime on children’s clothing. Not so crazy after all.
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