Game day. Sports fans live for game day. Some people have rituals, others have a routine, and everyone else muddles through their day, waiting for that whistle to signal the kick off. This is the day in the life of Carley, a die-hard Dallas Cowboy fan since the early days. Her story may remind you of yourself or be nothing at all like your experience, but spending time with her as she enjoyed her very first game at the new Cowboys Stadium was worth putting down on paper. While this isn’t the “normal” weekly commentary, I hope you take a piece of it with you.
Carley first started watching the Cowboys not long after the team was admitted into the league. She remembers the days of the very first signed Cowboy and quarterback, “Dandy Don” Meredith. She explained how she grew to love Coach Tom Landry. Ever since those days of falling in love with that team, her world comes to a standstill on Sundays in the fall. Carley wakes up each and every game day and turns her television to the CBS morning pre-game show. Later in the morning she will turn it over to the Fox NFL show with Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson, and the rest of the crew. Last Sunday, she missed her usual routine because for the first time in many decades, she was attending a game in person.
Having had an opportunity earlier in the year to meet Jason Witten in person, she bought his #82 jersey. When she picked me up at my home, she was proudly wearing it and about as excited as she’s ever been in her life. Driving to Arlington, Texas, she described gameday watch parties, always spent with her family and friends. Back then, they had to drive to Winnsboro, Texas to see the game because of the blackouts within 100 miles of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. If you lived within that distance and you wanted to watch the Cowboys, you showed up at the stadium. She has actually witnessed many wins, including Super bowl championships in her lifetime, all five to be exact, and she believes every single year, just like the rest of us, that she’ll witness another championship.
As a retirement gift, her coworkers and friends had raised enough money for her to attend the game of her choice. Loving the big rivalry over the years, the New York Giants game was her first pick. Tickets were found on Craigslist (buyer-beware warning!) and as it turned out, they were fakes. Later on, we suspected, after we met the guy in person, that they were fraudulent copies, but wanted to believe the scammer/thief wouldn’t do that to innocent women. As we made our way up to the ticket folks, Carley kept hoping that they let us in. When the scanner indicated they were bogus, Carley didn’t get down. We set our next plan in motion.
Time was on Carley’s side and as we walked around searching for tickets, our faith in humanity was restored. Tailgating fans around the stadium heard her story and while they didn’t have tickets available themselves, they directed us to those who might. As Carley told her story to those who would listen, people rallied to lend a hand. A man who had flown in from Connecticut gave us his number and promised to search for tickets. Others, outside the stadium, pointed us in the right direction and gave us hope. Eventually we were able to purchase two more tickets and Carley was finally able to walk into her beloved team’s home.
We made our way to the seats, and as she looked onto the field, she couldn’t believe that she was actually standing feet away from her ‘boys. Dez Bryant, wide receiver and Dan Bailey, kicker, walked around the field, warming up, ready to perform for the thousands of fans. Pam Oliver, NFL sideline reporter walked by, Giants players took the field, and fans filed into their seats. You could feel her anticipation as the clock got closer to the kickoff. Sitting in her seat, Carley talked to the people around her, making friends everywhere she goes. Cowboy and Giant fans alike sat side-by-side, ready to cheer on their respective teams. As the players ran onto the field, her smile was, as they say, “bigger than Dallas.” To see Carley’s face light up was worth every single penny spent on the bogus tickets, as well as the valid tickets.
Though the Cowboys lost the game, they didn’t lose a fan. Carley will be cheering for her team the day they put her in the grave, I suspect. Despite Jerry Jones and the way he fired her most-loved coach Landry, in spite of the 3-4 record, regardless of the lack of playoff games or Super bowl appearances the past few years, Carley will forever love this team. Most of you would agree.