As a child of the Seventies, I grew up with a trinity of heroes taking turns on my day dreams center stage: Spider-Man, Paul Stanley of KISS, and Roger Staubach. Before I knew the difference between a scramble and a screen pass, I knew Staubach was fictional gridiron heroics come to life. Ive collected baseball cards for almost 30 years, but ask my mom and shell tell you it was a 1978 Topps Staubach that just about trumped every Christmas or birthday gift of my childhood. So quite naturally, I grew into a Dallas Cowboys fan. (Had Staubach been a Cincinnati Bengal, Id be wearing orange-and-black sweatshirts today.)
My dad took me to see the Cowboys play the L.A. Rams in Anaheim on December 15, 1980. Alas, this was the first season after Staubachs retirement. (NFL historians will note that it was the Rams who beat Dallas in Staubachs final game, during the 1979 playoffs.) Even with future Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett (77 yards on this night) and Randy White in their prime, the Cowboys were blown out, 38-14, in the Monday night contest. Dallas gained some revenge by beating Los Angeles two weeks later in the NFC wild-card game, but it would be almost 25 years before I got the chance to see my Boys again, in the flesh.
To the surprise of casual fans coast to coast, the Dallas-Seattle affair was a pivotal midseason NFC showdown. Both teams entered the game as division leaders, with identical 4-2 records. And in a conference still dominated by the names Favre, McNabb, and Vick, the two top-rated quarterbacks happened to be the Cowboys Drew Bledsoe and the Seahawks Matt Hasselbeck. Need more? The NFLs leading rusher Alabama alum Shaun Alexander stood behind Hasselbeck in the Seattle backfield, having scored 12 touchdowns in six games. Lights, camera . . . .
Rain. Steady rain. Drizzle on steroids. Considering the maritime atmosphere of Qwest Field two sides partially covered by a crescent-shaped roof and a triangular bow of stands behind one end zone we may as well have been on a clipper ship in the north Pacific. But football . . . we were here for some football.
The damp weather kept the scoring down, a slippery ball leading to costly turnovers for both teams. A missed field-goal attempt by the Cowboys Jose Cortez and conservative play-calling by Dallas coach Bill Parcells (Dallas made two trips inside the Seahawks 10-yard line in the second half and came away with a total of three points) allowed the home team to stay in the game just long enough.
Having held Seattle to three points for 59 minutes and 20 seconds, the Cowboys gave up 10 in the last 40 seconds to lose, 13-10. (An ill-advised Bledsoe pass was intercepted by the immortal Jordan Babineaux with less than 30 seconds to play and Josh Brown nailed a 50-yard field goal as time expired.)
There were plenty of fellow Cowboy fans in attendance, but its a lonely, paranoid feeling, shuffling out of a stadium wearing the wrong the losing colors. All this merely four days after another member of the family, the St. Louis Cardinals, had their World Series dreams buried. Great week to be a sports fan.
But heres the catch. Final score aside, the Cowboys-Seahawks game of October 23, 2005, will be remembered for what it offered off the field . . . at least for two people. A few hours, however damp, with my only sibling. Some time spent with one of the select few who understand the emotions a rather silly game can expose in an otherwise clear-headed older brother. Sports are, to be sure, a kind of relationship. Its the only way to explain the shared joy and sorrow between total strangers. But a brother and sister, together for a weekend (one merely interrupted by a football game)? Now that is a relationship that knows no scoreboard. A team will drop you now and again. Family will always, always be there to catch you.