There does not seem to be any middle of the road view among fans toward the Saints opponent this Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys. Fans either love 'em or hate 'em. There is no in between. What is it about the Cowboys that draws such strong emotions?
Yes, they are one of the NFL's most historically successful franchises. However, so are the Packers, Steelers, 49ers and Giants. Yet, none of these franchises seems to have developed a national fan base like the Cowboys have, nor have they inspired as much national fan hatred.
Once dubbed "America's Team" do the Cowboys still have that title? Or do they have a touch of the "Notre Dame Syndrome" in which they have dominated the news coverage so much even with mediocre teams that opposing fans are sick of hearing about them even if their team is not one of the Cowboys traditional rivals. During the Saints Super Bowl season it was often said that the Saints have taken over the mantle of "America's Team" away from the Cowboys, even if Bountygate has now ruined that perception.
As a kid, the Cowboys were among the teams I liked behind the Saints. The first Super Bowl I can remember was between the Cowboys and Steelers in the late 70's and I was pulling hard for the Cowboys to win it. Part of that attraction was mascot association. Cowboys, such as the Lone Ranger, always played heroes and were on the same level of admiration as Batman and Superman. I really wasn't sure what a Steeler was back then. Nor did I really understand the concept of what a Saint was either. But I did know that they were much closer to me than Dallas was even if their record was far worse. Plus they had Archie Manning at Quarterback who was a far greater hero in Mississippi than any Cowboy could be.
During the 80's my fondness for the Cowboys began to greatly decrease even if they were not considered one of the Saints rivals. As the Washington Redskins began building a dynasty under Joe Gibbs, I found myself pulling for the smurfs and hogs of the Redskins in the bitter feud between the division rivals which often decided the NFC conference championship. The Cowboys gradual downfall during the remainder of the 80's seemed to coincide with the rise of the Saints under Jim Mora and the Dome Patrol. For some reason the new success the Saints were having resulted in me having far less positive thoughts or good wishes towards other teams in the league.
As we all know, the Cowboys would then rebound in the early 90's and win four Super Bowls. While you can't argue with the results, the way they won was a complete turnoff. Their ownership, coaching staff and players all seemed like complete showoffs. It was as if J.R. Ewing was running the Miami Hurricanes. The dignity and sportsmanship that always seemed to characterize Tom Landry's teams seemed to be just a memory under Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, with new owner Jerry Jones coming across as the biggest pompous ASS of them all. However, I will admit this: I crashed an event years ago that will go unnamed and met Jerry Jones. My perception of him was wrong. He was completely nice and personable.
Jerry Jones has yet to recreate the success he had during the early years of his ownership of the franchise. Battling in a three way tie for the Eastern Division lead, the Cowboys have a lot on the line when they face the Saints Sunday. Coming off of a 41-0 domination of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Saints can still mathematically make the playoffs, but that is too much Math for me. I'm just hoping the Saints secondary can follow up on their strong performance against the Bucs and provide effective coverage against the Cowboys talented receiving corps of Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
The Dallas Cowboys: love 'em or hate 'em. I'll at least hate them for the day on Sunday.