At first I felt alone. I was the only person going through this internal struggle. On one hand…The Cowboys are having one of their greatest seasons ever. On the other hand…Tony Romo isn’t leading the way.
However, I don’t feel like I’m alone with this struggle now. This year has been rough for the Romo faithful. Let me make it clear that I love Dak Prescott. He seems like the kind of guy you hope your sons grow up to be. But…over the years I’ve become a huge fan of #9 for several reasons that I will explain. But today, on my first ever 20 mile run, I had an epiphany that changed everything. Let me break it down.
There are two questions I’m frequently asked regarding marathon training. 1) Are you insane? That depends on whom you ask. 2) What do you think about running for that long? Everything. You are mentally replaying your life story in your head. Some of the memories are so great you forget you are running. Some of the memories are so horrible you forget you are running. Nothing is off limits. The brightest and darkest memories that were buried in the nether regions of your brain are popped in a VHS player for your entertainment…or agony.
I was running by an elementary school thinking about this weekend’s game and BAM…a replay of my youth starting playing. The year was 1993. The Dallas Cowboys were preparing to take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. A 4th grade John Tarrant couldn’t stand it. This was up there with the days leading up to Christmas. All I wanted to do was go home and put on my Dallas Cowboys Logo Athletic shark tooth cap and play Techmo Super Bowl to prepare.
I’m sitting in class reading a Goosebumps book when I hear excitement in the room. The type of excitement that is usually limited to a TV cart rolling in the room, or a stray dog on the playground. Both are excellent days.
My friend next to me said, “John, your mom is here”. On normal conditions…this is a horrifying day for a 4th grade boy. But instead of being my source of embarrassment…she was the hero of Mrs. Gray’s 4th grade class at J.L. Boren Elementary School. In her hands was a circular plastic box that was carrying a cookie cake with the simple words “Go Cowboys!” Our class had an impromptu Cowboys party. Missy Tarrant was the MVP (still is).
If you thought I was excited about the NFC Championship game…I was uncontrollable for the Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills. My Tourettes Syndrome was in rare form (more on that in an upcoming post). This was not just any Super Bowl. My aunt came over before the game with a huge supply of “Buffalo” wings and my whole family was living on every play. The whole spectacle was pure magic. The game kicked off at sunset at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Michael Jackson performed the halftime show. The Dallas Cowboys, with that star on their helmet, were larger than life figures as they won the most lopsided Super Bowl (at the time) in the history of the sport. My dad allowed me to stay up till 2:00 in the morning to watch post game specials of my heroes celebrating. I had always been a Cowboys fan…but at that moment I was one for life.
Every child deserves the experience of the Dallas Cowboys in the early 90s. Three Super Bowls in four years got me from elementary school to high school. What a great time to be alive. Then things got ugly. Very ugly.
Once Troy Aikman retired the team that I grew up worshipping turned into a punch line. More agonizing than more players going to jail than Pro Bowls, was their quarterback situation. From the year Aikman retired (2000) to 2006…The Cowboys started 9 different quarterbacks. All of them equally awful…then a gift came down from football heaven. Antonio Ramiro Romo.
First and foremost I love a good story. I grew up on movies like the Natural where an underdog seemingly comes out of nowhere to achieve greatness. We all love these stories. The first time I saw Tony Romo was in a pre season game in 2003. I was watching the game in college when he entered in the 4th quarter. I called my dad and said are you watching this guy who isn’t going to make the team? He looks just like Zach (my brother)! We had a good laugh at the resemblance and that’s where my interest in him died…until 2006.
Romomania was in full force. I was in my first year of being a sports anchor for KLST (CBS station in beautiful San Angelo, TX) and for the first time since 1995 I had legit reasons to be excited about the Cowboys thanks to Romo. A bonus was with my job I got to share the experience with everyone watching me (based on ratings…not many). This guy who was undrafted, from Eastern Illinois University, was taking the league and country by storm. Add the fact that he looked like my brother…I became a huge fan.
(above: my brother and Romo comparison)
Some of you are reading this saying Romo is overrated, a choke artist, stats only quarterback…I get it. I’ll save that argument for another day. But no one can deny (OK, some of you will) that he nearly single handedly made, and kept, the Cowboys relevant for the better part of decade. For that reason, amongst others, I wanted to see him #finishthefight and win a Super Bowl.
When he got injured this year I, like most fans, considered this season was lost. No way could a 4th round rookie fill in and keep this team above water until Romo returned. Boy, were we all wrong.
Just like Romo, Dak has an amazing…if not better story. As I previously stated I love everything about the guy…but for the reasons stated I wanted to see Romo win a ring, shut up the haters, and retire on the Cowboys Mt. Rushmore of quarterbacks. Therefore, I have internally struggled this season…until today’s run.
Having that vision from my youth gave me the clarity I needed. My boys, Hank and Sam, deserve that experience. They aren’t going to get it with Romo. They will view Tony Romo and Troy Aikman in the same way my generation viewed Danny White and Roger Staubach. They will know they were good…but won’t want to have their posters in their room or buy their jerseys.
More than that I want them to become fans. I still to this day either watch games with my family or keep my phone on a charger next to me for the flood of text messages and phone calls coming in (even though no matter where I’ve lived my dad’s TV is always a solid 10 seconds ahead of me which has ruined many of big plays). I want my boys to wear their jerseys on game day and experience the thrills of victories and agonies of defeats with me. I want them to call me on Sundays when they are in college and talk about the game. I need Dak, Zeke, Dez, and the boys to deliver some Super Bowls over the next few years to ensure this will happen. The Cowboys are more than one player…it’s everything else the “star” stands for. In my case…family.
I find myself more excited than I have been for a game in a long time now. As for Romo…I hope he moves on to another team and finds success…as long as it doesn’t interfere with the Cowboys. Put me on the Dak Prescott bandwagon. As I said…I appreciate a good a story and I would have no problem having either of my boys look up to him.
So, my fellow Romo supporters…enjoy this weekend. Win or lose the Cowboys future looks bright and we need a new generation of Cowboys fans. I invite you to join me in my excitement.