I am glad you will no longer play quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
Your decision to retire means that I am free of the burden you have become to me.
I first became a fan of the Cowboys in 1969, the summer my family moved to Dallas just before I turned five. Coach Landry graced the sidelines, his iconic hat casting its familiar shadow. Those were the days of the Doomsday Defense, of “Bullet” Bob Hayes, and when it seemed as if not only the city, but the nation cheered the franchise on its way to becoming “America’s Team.”
Craig Morton was the quarterback, although “Roger the Dodger” would soon take his place. Many would point to that change as the moment when being the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys became the honor it remains today.
Like many fans in Dallas at the time, my family took our dry cleaning to Chuck Howley’s store. He was a legend in those days, as he had won the MVP even though we lost the Super Bowl. On one visit there, the attendant mentioned that the team jerseys were hanging on the rack in the back. With his permission, I walked into the back room. I moved my hand along the rack, touching each jersey that some great Cowboy had worn the Sunday before.
In the right moments, I can still conjure the awe I felt in that moment.
Some days after school, my mom would drive me to the old practice facility on Forest Avenue, and I would walk around the fence in the hope that I could catch a glimpse of one of those greats. John Niland. Roger Staubach. Bob Lilly. Too Tall Jones. Drew Pearson. Lee Roy Jordan. Chuck Howley. Charlie Waters. Cliff Harris. Mel Renfroe. Mike Ditka. Dan Reeves.
Typing their names calls amazing memories to mind.
My dad and I would attend about 1 game a year after Texas Stadium opened. There were two ticket prices—$6 and $8—and we would ride the bus from a nearby shopping center to the stadium. I would flip through the program and imagine.
We cheered together from the end zone during the 1974 Thanksgiving Day game against the Redskins, when Clint Longley came in after Mr. Staubach’s injury. He threw the bomb to Drew Pearson to win the game.
It was a magical time to be a fan.
The magic faded for me, however, as I moved from Dallas after high school. And even though we won some Super Bowls, and we had great players and people in Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith and many others, I never enjoyed it as much as I did when I was younger.
But then you took the field.
And though you never won the Super Bowl, you returned the joy to this fan of America’s Team. You gave me hope, you taught me about grace, and you played with honor.
From my home in Virginia, otherwise known as Redskins country, I witnessed your greatest moments, as well as your well-documented mistakes. Your ability to continue under the onslaught of criticism you endured impressed me even more than your wins.
I loved to watch you play for the Cowboys.
When you entered the field, you carried unpredictable possibility with you. You led the team to victories that never should have happened, and your leadership under pressure gave us a chance even when we had little hope.
And though there were some interceptions or fumbles along the way, and a dropped snap or two, you never deserved the level of criticism that too many fans directed your way.
But win or lose, I was always glad you were our quarterback.
But today, I’m glad you are gone.
In recent years, the joy I felt watching you play with abandon as you quarterbacked the Cowboys changed. I cared little about the result of a play or the outcome of a game. All I cared about was that you should return to your family at the end of each day without pain, without weeks or months of rehab, without the crushing weight that so many years of criticism must have meant.
I wanted you gone, only not for me. I wanted that for you.
For one whose decision-making ability was often questioned as a player, you made the right decision today. I can only imagine the struggle this decision has been for you and your family. As hard it is for you, and for your many fans, now is the time to go.
But before you do, I want you to know how grateful I am for the years you were our quarterback.
May your retirement bring you as much joy as your playing brought to me. Click To TweetMay your retirement bring you as much joy as your playing brought to me.
And whenever you think back to your time on the field, may you realize how much you meant to so many of your fans.
In fact, you came to mean so much to me that I can honestly say on this painful day, “I’m so glad you’re gone.”
P.S.–If this letter is like one of your passes, it might fail to connect with anyone. Or it might be intercepted by someone with an opposing view. But my hope is that it somehow reaches you, delivering to you the same joy I felt whenever you connected with your intended targets. But whatever happens, I just wanted to say thanks.