“So who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl?” my dad asked me over the phone the day before Super Bowl XLVII.
I told my father in Arkansas that I hadn’t even watched the NFL playoffs. I was so disgusted with the way the Cowboys lost the NFC East to the Redskins in Week 17 that I didn’t care for the postseason. If anything, I wanted the Ravens to win, but I wouldn’t watch the game. I still had hyperfootballosis.
“Well, I want the 49ers to win,” says the man who has rooted for the Cowboys going back to the days of Don Meredith and the Cotton Bowl. He lived through “The Catch” and the ’92-’94 NFC Championship games. How could he root for the rat 49ers like this?
“I like Colin Kaepernick in college.”
So did I. I wanted him as a backup to Romo, but Kaepernick fell in between our Tryon Smith and Bruce Carter picks in the 2011 draft. We had no chance.
When reminded of how the 49ers would tie the Steelers for first in Super Bowl wins while relegating the Cowboys to third-most, my dad likened us to the University of Alabama. Until their recent success under Nick Saban (one of Jason Garrett’s mentors), Alabama couldn’t get past Notre Dame’s 8 championships. For the Cowboys, once we put everything together, we would string off a couple of Super Bowls and be, like Michael Irvin promised in 2009, the first to seven Super Bowls.
To me, though I love my dad, that sounds like polyanna poppycock. I deal in reality.
Here’s the reality: the Dallas Cowboys are like Marty McFly in Back to the Future when he’s playing “Earth Angel” on guitar at his parents’ high school dance. We’re watching our history evaporate before our eyes. It’s been this way since 2000, realistically. I know your stumble-bum relatives who get stupefied by the Sportscenter jingle and are as grid iron knowledgeable as the Eloi in The Time Machine will say it’s 1996, but the Cowboys were at the tail end of making history. Though the Triplets weren’t able to play in another conference championship game, they earned one more postseason win against the ’96 Vikings to set the league record for postseason wins and also add three more postseason appearances (’96, ’98, ’99) to set the league record at 26.
Also in 2000, the Cowboys tied the 49ers for most Super Bowl wins at 5. They led the league in Super Bowl appearances with 8. They played in 51 playoff games, logged 32 wins, appeared in 14 conference championship games, and ran away with 19 division titles since their 1960 inception. The Millennial Cowboys have hardly added to that resume, only posting 2 more division titles, 3 more playoff appearances, and 5 more playoff games, and 1 lousy playoff win.
Since that time, the Pittsburgh Steelers have not only overtaken the Cowboys with two Super Bowl wins (XL, XLIII) to lead with six, but they have tied the Cowboys in two other categories: Super Bowl berths and postseason wins. The Steelers’ eighth Super Bowl berth was Super Bowl XLV in Cowboys Stadium, and Pittsburgh notched 12 postseason wins for an overall of 33 postseason wins.
While the San Fransisco 49ers have only one more Super Bowl berth to go before tying us and the Steelers with 8 league-leading appearances, the 49ers already tied us this season in conference championship game appearances by appearing in Atlanta this January. We’re at 14; they’re at 14. If they get to the 2013 NFC Championship game without facing us, they will be first with 15.
The New York Giants overtook the Dallas Cowboys in playoff appearances in 2011 in that Week 17 give-up. In addition to the NFC East, the 31st and league-leading playoff appearance was on the line. The Giants took it. And to think back in 2000, we were 26-25 on them. They added 6 playoff appearances in the span of 12 seasons, while we could only add 4.
A cold, damp Cowboys fan watches America’s Team cede their 31st league-leading playoff appearance to the New York Giants in a 31-17 sad-sack performance on 1/1/12.
One could extrapolate and kvetch about the Indianapolis Colts (2002-10) tying us (1975-83) for consecutive playoff appearances at 9, or also New England’s 12 consecutive winning seasons (2001-present) getting close to our 20 consecutive winning seasons (1966-85). But that’s as ludicrous as blaming Jerry Jones personally for the Steelers playing in Super Bowl XLV. Those streaks were dead as a doornail long before Bum Bright foisted Paul Hackett on Tom Landry and cannot be added unto.
The Super Bowl wins, the berths, conference championship game appearances, postseason appearances, postseason wins, and playoff games are categories this franchise, this decade needs to do something about. If another decade passes with the Cowboys doing their best Kansas City Chiefs impression, you could wind up seeing the Steelers or 49ers owning every postseason record Dallas once held and Cowboys fans used to win every internet argument. And it won’t be because the league cheated or Roger Goodell hates the Cowboys. It will be because this franchise doesn’t know how to evaluate talent, doesn’t know how to hire a head coach, and doesn’t realize it’s not 1997 anymore.
Right now, that Blue Star is fading transparently from the history books like Marty McFly’s hand onstage. I don’t care how wide Jerry Jones’ grin will spread this off-season after free agency and the draft. I don’t care how many highlight videos and pictures are made to pump up the fans. I don’t care how many retweets or likes a hackney Emmitt Smith photo gets in social media to somehow represent the “Cowboy Fam.” Something needs to be done on the field and in January 2014 to ensure this historical franchise’s place in the present, and not as a rotting fruit on the jungle floor. If we wanted to be fans of our history in a specific time frame only, we’d all be Browns fans.