If you have read this column before you know I am a big fan of classic rock. I have opined about the Beatles and the Stones. Have I mentioned that I had a conversation with Mick Jagger? (Odd how I find a way to work that into so many columns, isn’t it?) Anyway, this month it is Led Zepplin playing in my head. Specifically the line, “Goin’ to California with an achin’ in my heart.” It is from their classic “Going to California,” a great song with a creepy tone.
For decades, Cowboys fans have spent part of their summer Goin’ to California to watch the Cowboys train. For decades, they have heard that this is the year. For decades, it hasn’t been. Since 2001 America’s Team has been staging some portion of training camp at the River Ridge Playing Fields in Oxnard, Calif. It is a wonderful place to visit. The weather is great, you are not too far from LA, you are close to Santa Barbara. But you know what the Cowboys haven’t been close to since heading west? A Super Bowl!
No matter what the Patriots with all their success or the Steelers with all their history say, the Cowboys are still America’s Team. And yet my daughter is nearly three decades old and she does not remember when the Cowboys “were good.”
The sobering fact is that the Cowboys are in a group with the Lions, the Browns and the Bengals for the longest span between championship game appearances. Only those teams plus the Washington Football Team and the Dolphins have had longer championship game appearance droughts than the Cowboys. It has been 25 years for the Cowboys, 28 for the Dolphins and Browns, 29 for the Lions and that team in Washington and 32 for the Bengals. I grew up a Lions fan. No franchise wants to match them in futility. It is just not a place you want to be.
So as thousands of Cowboys fans go to California for training camp this month what will they find? It is a good question, and the short answer is that they will find a team that did everything right in the off season. They signed Dak Prescott!
“It seems that the wrath of the gods got a punch on the nose and it’s starting to flow, I think I might be sinking.”
That’s another line from “Going to California,” and, when Dak got hurt last year, that is a line that played in my head. This team needs Dak – he is their emotional leader, their spiritual lead and their on field General. If anyone is going to bring this team out of the drought it is him.
The other thing they did this offseason was rebuild the defense. Last year they fielded an historically bad group on that side of the ball. If new Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn can do what he did in Seattle and turn this young squad into anything that resembles the Legion of Boom, then the Cowboys have a chance.
Once again, this year it all starts in California. Very few fans will have an achin’ in their hearts if they travel to Cowboys training camp. The team will still be undefeated, the players and coaches will look great and say all the right things, and the high temperatures will be in the 70s. Besides, there is a golf course adjacent to the practice fields. If you have to wait on the group in front of you, there are a couple of tee boxes where you can watch practice from a hill above the fields.
Which reminds me: The last line of “Going to California” is, “Standin’ on a hill in a mountain of dreams, Tellin myself it’s not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.” The truth is the last time the Cowboys won the Super Bowl they held training camp right here in Texas. Should we put a “soft hold” on St. Edward’s University in Austin for next July?
Maybe it’s that simple.