Fandemonium

He roots for the Dallas Cowboys in Houston: Why fans can't quit their favorite teams

From Emmitt Smith breaking the rushing record, to traditions like watching the Cowboys every Thanksgiving since 1978, I've been with America's Team. Photo by Rick Stewart /Allsport/Getty Images

I was recently back home in Chicago and came across an old family friend. We grew up in the 1970s together, and within a few minutes of seeing each other for the first time in over a decade, he asked, "Are you still a fan of those pathetic Dallas Cowboys?" A smile and an emphatic "Yes!" was my prompt reply.   

During my grade school years my favorite athlete was Tony Dorsett. This was considered blasphemy, as Chicago had adopted the late Walter Payton, known as "Sweetness," as their own son. At the age of 6, I can vividly recall the day when Dorsett set a school record at Pitt Stadium vs. Notre Dame, rushing for 303 yards. That total still stands today as the most yardage that the Irish have ever allowed on the ground to one player.

I just remember how fast Dorsett was with the breakaway speed. Many will automatically jump several years later to the Minneapolis Metrodome and Monday Night Football when Dorsett busted off a 99-yard touchdown run from the goal line vs. the Minnesota Vikings. I fell in love with the speed and his amazing vision.  

In the spring of '77,  the Dallas Cowboys selected Dorsett with the second overall pick (from Seattle), and my fandom of the Cowboys was solidified for life. By the way, in that trade, the Seattle Seahawks wound up with a no-name guard by the name of Steve August from Tulsa. Fast forward to that '77 season when, as a rookie, Dorsett blazed a trail and helped the Cowboys win Super Bowl XII over the Denver Broncos.  

I remember thinking "Wow, before it's all over he'll have five rings!" As it turned out, that rookie year would be the only time Dorsett won a title, and it would also be the last Super Bowl that Tom Landry ever won, despite coaching for 11 additional seasons.  

Of course being a fan also means you have to endure the tough losses. The Dwight Clark catch in 1982 was haunting. (With under a minute to play in the NFC Championship Game against the Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana threw a high pass that was snagged in the back of the end zone by Clark, who caught it with his fingertips.)

The 44-0 loss to my hometown Chicago Bears in the '85 season at Texas Stadium was embarrassing, and, of course, the 34-31 heartbreak loss to the Green Bay Packers in January will probably take me a decade to get over.

Sometimes, you remember the losses and the games you "should have won" rather than the games you did win. Sometimes, you become simply blind in your desire to have players develop. I was the guy 15 years ago who thought Quincy Carter could play — that's pretty sad.  

However, from Emmitt Smith breaking the rushing record to glorious traditions like watching the Cowboys every Thanksgiving Day since 1978, I've been with America's Team, and I'll be with them through all of eternity. 

Ask yourself, "Why are you a fan?" Is it simply civic pride? I adopted the Houston Astros upon relocating here several years ago. I love the stadium and the way that Reid Ryan and management have gone about building a championship-caliber team with a core of young, hungry players. Sometimes you pull for certain stars or a young player who excites. It could be Springer or Correa, as I was hooked in by Dorsett some 40 years ago.

Do you adopt teams because of your older siblings or relatives? Do you simply become a fan to spite your parents? (I've known many to do that.)    

One thing's for sure: The best season on the sports calendar is upon us. Football is the air, with baseball's postseason not far behind. Whoever you root for, enjoy another amazing fall as a fan and never forget how your own personal fandom began with a player, team, or love affair with a city.

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Originally appeared on CultureMap.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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