My college experience began because of a love for the Detroit Lions. In those days the Lions staged training camp at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. I had not heard of Oakland U, but while I was in high school we visited the campus to watch the Lions train. In those days the Lions were awful but I was a huge fan anyway. The year was 1977. The team’s last winning season had been 1972. Their last championship was won in 1957, four years before I was born.
I bring this up not to infuriate Cowboys fans but to encourage them. I realize that it has been twenty-eight years since the Cowboys have played in the NFC Championship game. But for perspective, they have made it to the conference title game fourteen times in 63 years. The Lions played in one in their first 93 seasons.
That being said, here is my advice to you. Find another team in which to invest your rooting interest. I don’t mean instead of the Cowboys, I mean in addition to the Cowboys.
Through the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s I really did love the Lions. By the mid-70’s I pretty much hated the Cowboys. The reality was I was jealous of the team from Dallas. Each Sunday I would watch the Lions figure out a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the noon game on CBS. Then the Cowboys game would come on, they were so precise, so polished, so good.
In 1990 I was blessed to leave the snow and cold of Michigan and take a job at NBC5. I got here just in time to cover a Cowboys team that was responsible for four of those fourteen NFC Championships. It was an easy team to cover and frankly, an easy team to love. I am still in touch with several of the players that I covered on those teams. Through it all, I remained a Lions fan.
This approach will only be difficult when your new team plays your old team. This dilemma hit me hard back in early 1992. The Cowboys had beaten the Bears in the first round of the playoffs that year. Setting up a date with the Lions. NBC5 sent me to Detroit for a week to cover the opponent. I will never forget waking up the morning of the game and considering who I really wanted to win that day. After all, I had been with the Cowboys virtually every day for two years. But in my heart I knew. I wanted the Lions to win.
They did and I was the quietest person on the Cowboys charter back to Dallas that night. Jimmy Johnson might have thrown me off the plane if he had seen me celebrating.
Along those lines you may want to pick a new favorite team that is in the AFC. That way you could be sure that they would not play the Cowboys that often and the only time they would play your first favorite team during the playoffs would be in the Super Bowl. Also you are allowed to pick a team that is close to winning. That will expedite your joy. You mustn’t pick a Cowboys rival. Choosing the 49ers or Eagles would lead to torturous Sundays for years to come.
There is room on the Lions bandwagon but the two teams have played each other a lot lately. With CJ Stroud leading the way, the Texans would be a good choice and they are another Texas team. Or how about the Bills, they are a fun team and if history teaches us anything it is that they won’t beat the Cowboys in the Super Bowl.
I have had so much fun covering the Cowboys and investing my heart and soul in the team for thirty-five years. They have not taken away from my love of the Lions. So I encourage you to try this. Your heart is big enough to love two teams and it is tired of being broken by the Cowboys.
Sports columnist John Rhadigan is an anchor for the Bally Sports Southwest television network.