I’ll preface this with the revelation I friggin’ detest the Dallas Cowboys. Yes, I respect how revered they are by their fan base, and their history is as rich and filled with Hall of Famers as any modern NFL franchise.
Yet I detest how the Cowboys have consistently marketed themselves as America’s Team, choosing to spend portions of their training camp in Southern California, a practice actually begun in the 1960s but brought to a new level in recent years, including this one, that has allowed the team to build up a substantial following in this area. Usually, that meant a pre-season game with the Chargers, a “tradition” that continues tonight at SoFi Stadium, or, as owner Jerry Jones will tend to brag, the second greatest home venue in the league.
The Cowboys have regularly spent at least a week in this area, usually at a complex in Oxnard, a pleasant seaside town halfway to Santa Barbara. Well-heeled fans, many of whom venture from Texas, crowd the complex to see workouts, and to see Jones and his minions predict returns to glory from winning days that grow more distant with every passing year.
The reality is, after winning three titles in five of Jones’ first seven years, the Cowboys haven’t even been to a Super Bowl, let alone won one, since. Often, they’ve been good enough to win the NFC East or at least battle for a playoff spot. Let’s face it, when your competition is the Eagles, Giants and Red–er–Commanders, it’s not exactly an insurmountable bar to overperch.
During the two decades where the Los Angeles market lacked its own team, the Cowboys would lay claim to the area during August, frequently win whatever poll the local FOX station took to see which game they’d carry live, and promise another championship. But with Jones’ ego squarely out front, and with the likes of Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett serving as his puppeteer coach, inevitably those summer dreams turned to winter nightmares. Under Mike McCarthy, it’s more of the same.
But tonight may be a sign that the redundancy may finally be reaching an inflection point. The Chargers are brimming with confidence and momentum; indeed, they are currently favored by Las Vegas as a top Super Bowl candidate. Dak Prescott is considered a Tier Two quarterback at best; Justin Herbert is being touted for MVP. SoFi is now considered to be the crown jewel venue, particularly in light of the very successful Super Bowl won by its anchor tenant, the Rams.
And Jones is now battling a foe even his riches and bravado can’t beat. He’s turning 80 this fall, and doesn’t exactly live the healthiest lifestyle. 27 consecutive seasons of disappointment isn’t helping that much. And as both the Rams and Chargers capture the fancy and loyalty of a new generation of Southern California football fans, the Cowboys’ tentacles to the area are as uncertain as they’ve been in decades. There seems to be a growing impatience in Jones’ demeanor, and since he’s now battling mortality it’s almost understandable.
I’ve often wondered how loyal Cowboys fans have felt about the wanderlust of a team that owns the heart and soul of its home city taking so much time out of its summer preparation to usurp employees and players midway to have an extended stay in a rival region. Were I one of those fans, I’d be plenty pissed. Summer training camps are wonderful ways for passionate fans to build up a familairity, and even a personal rapport, with players and franchises. They are meant to be local.
With Los Angeles now home to two strong teams, two more talented quarterbacks than Prescott and at least one more successful owner (the Spanos family still owns the Chargers, so that’s a liability) , perhaps it’s time for the Cowboys to pick a lane and keep its camp in Texas. Reinvest in battles with natural rivals like the Texans, Cardinals and Saints. Heck, even the Chiefs–don’t forget the Chiefs were once a Dallas team themselves (the AFL Texans of 1960-62).
It’s only pre-season, to be sure. I’m sure the stands won’t be filled with fans of either team tonight. But I’d like to believe there will be more Chargers fans on hand tonight than not. They deserve the support and the confidence.
And the Cowboys and their fans deserve to be treated better than they have been.
How ’bout THAT, Jer?