Last weekend, in laughably predictable Cowboys fashion, just as I had written off the season entirely, Dak Prescott and the ’Boys played their best game of the year, completely dismantling a surging Los Angeles Rams team and putting themselves back in charge of their own postseason destiny. Then, on Sunday, again in laughably predictable Cowboys fashion, against an injury-hobbled Philadelphia roster on par with what’s normally put on the field in your average fourth preseason game, Dallas followed it up with maybe their worst game in this season or perhaps the last several.
In practically a winner-take-all for the division title game, the much-maligned Dallas defense managed to hold the Eagles — starting their fifth, sixth, and seventh receivers — to under 20 points, but new kicker Kai Forbath, who is a perfect 7/7 on the year (what took the team so long with Brett Maher?), accounted for all of Dallas’ scoring as they fell to the Trash Pigeons at Lincoln Financial Field by a final score of 17-9.
Most maddening is that despite the loss, with a few extremely realistic possibilities playing out, Dallas could still make the playoffs! If the Eagles and their XFL-level roster go into MetLife Stadium and lose to a Giants team hungry to play spoiler next week and the Cowboys beat a Washington team who currently sit to pick second overall in next year’s draft at home, the Cowboys are in with an embarrassing 8-8 record. Wouldn’t that just be the fitting pinnacle of the seemingly never-ending Jason Garrett era?
Yet here we are. The 2019 season will just not go in peace. Like Game of Thrones’ broken and bloodied Sandor “The Hound” Clegane battling his undead super-zombie Franken-brother in the series’ penultimate episode (spoiler alert), I find myself simultaneously grimacing in pain, laughing, crying, and screaming, “Why won’t you die?!”
Unlike some, I’ve never been one to be able to actively root against this team, regardless of how often they might genuinely deserve it. It’s been understood for years (decades?) that maintaining their baseline superficial level of higher-end mediocrity has only prolonged that same mediocrity like a perpetual motion machine. But football games are precious. I spend three quarters of every year wishing I could be watching my favorite team play. I just can’t allow myself to waste that precious one quarter of the year when they actually are, so I cling to the cliff-edge until the last possible second. If the team is still mathematically in it, then so am I.
That is changing.
I had briefly found peace after the Bears game, knowing the season was effectively over and that a coaching change would be inevitable. That peace has faded. With the impressive win over the Rams, I foolishly allowed myself to get sucked back in, thinking just maybe they had finally turned it on and at just the right time. How could I have been so dumb?
Now that peace is gone, and what remains in its place is the sickening, pit-in-your-stomach, guilty feeling you carry around when you know a relationship is over but you just can’t seem to end it. There’s no passion, no joy, no love. All your waking hours are spent rehearsing just how you’re going to do it — how best to be firm but sensitive to their feelings. “We both know this is what’s best for the both of us,” you’d say.
Still, when there’s an opportunity, you simply choke it back down. Why do it now? You’re both enjoying your spicy ramen with an extra soft-boiled egg and your seventh rewatch of The Office, and it’d be a shame to start a fight tonight. Besides, it’s almost Christmas, and what kind of person would you be if you broke someone’s heart over the holidays? Maybe after the New Year. You know, the whole “new year, new you” thing. Definitely before Valentine’s Day. That would be worse than trying to do it over Christmas …
Obviously, playoff games are even more special than regular season games. I hate to start the next three quarters of the year only wishing I was watching my favorite team already, but I’ve had enough. This team’s demonstrable lack of heart, lack of fight, and lack of accountability has shown that breaking up with them will not hurt them. Failing to do so is hurting only me. I’ll still stop short of rooting for Washington to hammer the final nail into this season’s pine box next week. Instead, allow me to swallow the bile currently filling my mouth and loudly declare, “Fly, Eagles, Fly! Beat the damn Giants!” It’s what’s best for both of us.