Aaah, September! The weather begins to cool off a bit from the brutal heat of a Texas summer (at least, it should by the end of the month - it was still 96 degrees outside today!), students are back in the groove of a new school year, Friday night lights blaze across Texas, and Dallas Cowboys fans do their best to convince themselves that THIS will be the year. Finally, after an exile that has stretched over two decades and change, Dallas will return to the Superbowl, and we will be able to relive the glory days of Troy and Emmett and Michael, when playoff appearances were guaranteed and championships were a safe bet.
These haven't been our glory years. The slow disintegration of the dynasty built by Jimmy Johnson, the micromanaging of a narcissistic owner who won't tolerate independent thinking from a coach (Jerry Jones has fired EVERY SINGLE COACH the Cowboys have ever had - except for the current one!), the desperate search for a franchise quarterback, the up and down seasons, and most recently the playoff appearances that end after the first round is done. We've lost some heartbreaking, nail-biter games that we should have won (I STILL say Dez caught that ball against Green Bay!), gotten blown out when we were expected to win, and basically floundered as a "better than average, but not good enough" team for the last decade.
And yet we fans hope on. We pin our dreams on each new coach and quarterback, each offensive coordinator, each first round draft pick. We tell ourselves NOT to get too excited, that it's way too early in the season, that we haven't faced a real threat yet - and then we cheer ourselves silly on game day. No matter how hard we try to suppress it, that "delusive phantom of hope," as Patrick Henry calls it, continues to taunt us and lead us on . . . and we continue to follow. How far will it lead us this year? Will it be a mid-season collapse? A catastrophic injury to a key player? A heartbreaking first-round loss to a hated division rival? Which, oh which, will it be?
Or . . .
Will Dak and Zeke and Witten lead us out of the wilderness at last? Will Jason Garrett finally be able to don a Superbowl Ring? Will we be able to crush and humiliate the obnoxious Eagles, the proud, pugnacious Packers, and those cheating chumps the Patriots? Could this be the year it actually, finally, really, for sure HAPPENS???
I DON'T KNOW. It is early in the season. We've beaten two teams that we were SUPPOSED to beat. Next week's game, against the hapless Dolphins, pretty much guarantees us a 3-0 start, barring a complete offensive collapse in which every player on our roster dies of bubonic plague - and even then I am not sure the Dolphins could beat the zombie Cowboys! But then the real fight begins. We will face teams with actual winning records. We will suffer injuries, setbacks, and stupid penalties. We faithful fans will begin to lose hope with each loss, only to regain it with each win. As I said, it's early in the season.
But for the moment, my Cowboys are 2-0. I'm going to pause and take a deep breath, and smell that sweet aroma that is still hanging in the air, before the winds of that fickle hussy Fortune blow it away for good. Can you smell it, too?
It's the scent of hope.