By Michael Burke
With the Dallas Cowboys on a bye week I was asked to provide you with a glimpse into how I became a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. Sports was always big in my family. My Grandfather played and scouted for the Green Bay Packers. His son, my Dad, was scouted by the Cincinnati Reds in baseball. That didn’t happen as he joined the Navy for the tail end of the Korean War.
The first football game I remember watching was Super Bowl V. That game was the Championship that followed the 1970 season which was the first after the AFL – NFL merger. The NFL consisted of 16 teams, and the AFL consisted of 10 teams. In 1970 they came together to forum two Conferences instead of two Leagues to determine a World Champion. The original 10 AFL teams were joined in the newly formed AFC by long time NFL teams the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, and Baltimore Colts.
The Super Bowl that year consisted of a game between the Baltimore Colts and the Dallas Cowboys. We were in my Grandpa’s living room for the game. I was sitting on the floor. I remember that the Cowboys were wearing blue. As a six year old I had already decided blue was my favorite color. So without knowing anything at all about the game of football at that time I was already going for the boys in blue. I also remember liking the silver helmets and the blue star on the side. I think that is also natural for a kid. One of the first recognizable things that kids draw are stars and we all do that 5 point star without picking the pen up.
I remember early in the game that my Grandpa, Dad, and Uncle were not happy about Johnny Unitas not being the QB for the Colts. Unlike today, I didn’t talk much as a kid, but I took that moment to announce to everyone who I was pulling for. I said I was rooting for the Cowboys and this was met with approval by three of the men I admired most in the whole world. That cemented it in my mind, I was going to be a Cowboys fan.
I think no one in my family realized how serious that was to me. They were all Packers fans. I was supposed to also be a Packers fan. But they didn’t wear blue and they had a stupid G on their yellow helmets. I decided that just wasn’t for me. I happen to be a very stubborn person, and I exhibited this from an early age. The more they wanted me to come to my senses the more I was determined to be a Cowboys fan.
By virtue of the fact I lived in New Mexico and our TV Stations came out of El Paso, Texas we got every Cowboys game. So the next season I made it a habit to watch those games. I fell in love with the game for real, and with the Cowboys for real even though they didn’t often wear those blue uniforms.
My absolute favorite player was Roger Staubach. I found out he had gone to a school in New Mexico for a while, New Mexico Military Institute, and that like my Dad he was a Navy man. He was also an incredible player. I began to understand the game more and more. I began to learn about Tom Landry, Bob Lilly and so many other players. I loved Calvin Hill. The game grew on me as I grew.
I began joining the neighborhood games of football. At first I was the little guy. The last one picked. But I soon discovered something and so did they bigger kids. I was genuinely fast and I loved to run. As I grew into being one of the bigger kids instead of the little kid I was the guy stuck being all time QB because no one liked to guard me or to have me guard them. My imagination ran wild and I was Roger Staubach. To this day the number 12 is my favorite number and no hero stands taller to me than Roger does. If I ever get the chance to meet him even though I am a grown man who has met other famous people I will probably be a gushing fan. I admire everything about the man.
Football went from being an interest to being a passion. I was good at it. The big fish in the little pond. I dreamed of playing for the Dallas Cowboys more than any other dream I had. The name Cowboys also had a big reason in my passion. At that time the best shows on TV were all about cowboys and I grew up in a town centered around farming and ranching. I was a cowboy myself. I woke up early and my first chore of the day was to milk the cow. We had horses, I wore boots, and there was only two kinds of music, country and western.
In the afternoons I watched Bonanza, The High Chaparral, The Rifleman, The Virginian, and Gunsmoke. I played cowboys and Indians and was always a cowboy. I have often mused that in my childhood games I don’t remember ever being a bird like the Eagles, Falcons, or Cardinals. I don’t remember ever being a cat like the Lions or Tigers. I did pretend to be a Giant a time or three and I am sure I was a pirate like the Raiders, but none of that was as fun as being a Cowboy.
To be continued….