Are you a Dallas Cowboys fan?
Are you sure?
Personally, I have been accused of being a Cowboys ''hater'' because of what I write on Bleacher Report. At the risk of discrediting myself in the field of journalism, I confidently admit that I am a fan of America's Team … and there is not a bigger fan in the entire country.
How about you—are you satisfied with this present mess?
Here I offer 10 points that will identify a true Cowboys fan.
Now, if you disagree with all or most of the following, ask yourself the following two questions.
Are you an eternal optimist?
Are you delusional?
If your answer to the first question is yes, then there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, my hat's off to you.
If your answer to the second question is also yes, then you have to decide for yourself exactly what is the value of this offering.
I cried the evening following Dwight Clark's historic touchdown catch in San Francisco in January of 1982. I did the same following Alvin Harper's equally big catch in January of 1993 in another NFC Championship Game at San Francisco, albeit for a very different reason.
No, I haven't seen it all concerning Cowboys' history. I can't help the fact I was too busy training to become a Jedi Knight while Roger Staubach was winding down—but I did catch on once I realized that all attempts to make a light saber would ultimately fail.
America's Team was losing ''the force'' but they were real life each and every Sunday—take way a few Mondays and Thanksgiving, provided I could stay awake after eating too much turkey before the game.
The United States was founded by men who realized that royalty wasn't the way to go. In that near-extinct, old-world government, you either had a good king or queen—or not.
Fifty percent isn't very good odds.
Well, the Cowboys represent the NFL's best version of a familial dynasty. As a citizen or fan of that kingdom, decide for yourself where exactly you fall.
Here's the scoop: Cowboys owner and general manger Jerry Jones is your king. Forget figurehead head coach Jason Garrett, who is a mere court jester amidst Jones' dominion.
Here's a list of reasons to see if you really are a fan of America's Team and of Cowboys nation, the largest fanbase in the world of team sports.
Do you own Cowboys laundry?
Answering ''yes'' does not necessarily make you a Cowboys fan, just like simply waving an American military flag on the fourth of July doesn't necessarily make you a patriot.
Do you know what the stars and stripes actually mean?
Do you truly love the blue star? Not that you have to bleed or die for it, but do you love it?
If you fail to put that navy or white jersey on during Cowboys games, don't feel bad. It's hard to get excited about getting either embarrassed and/or frustrated half of the time after having made time for a Cowboys game.
No, it doesn't matter if you attended the game or not.
The Cowboys have the largest fanbase, of any NFL football team by far, period. That is so because of pride.
If your pride is hurt, don't feel bad. There's nothing wrong with disconnecting to some extent from a painful mess.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
No, you don't have to live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to be considered a true Cowboys fan, especially not these days as more people move than ever before for economic reasons.
Nonetheless, the lion's share of Cowboys fans are somewhere in Texas and because of that, I ask this: Are the Texas Rangers and Dallas Mavericks of greater interest than in years past?
Sports fans tend to be regional, unless of course you're among the Cowboys fans who are located anywhere in the United States or in a number of other countries. However, if you're among the majority in the region of north Texas, I ask, How 'Bout Them Mavericks … or Rangers?
The Dallas Mavericks, despite their recent drop off from contention, won an NBA championship just two years ago. The Texas Rangers have appeared in two World Series in the last three years.
The Cowboys haven't even posted a winning record in that time span.
If America's pastime or pro hoops are more interesting, rest assured that you're still a Cowboys fan. You're just bored, and there's nothing wrong with shifting gears to follow the success of other local teams.
Cowboys fans at Super Bowl XXX in Tempe, Arizona.
Yes, it's been awhile now.
Not since early-1996 have Cowboys fans felt the thrill of victory in the final football game of the season. Sorry, but the Pro Bowl isn't a football game and it should be abolished.
It stuns me to realize that you could be close to 20 years old and still have no recollection of Dallas hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
If you're even younger, you're reduced to YouTube clips or DVDs for an offering of what a dominant Cowboys team really was like. I was just like you back in the early- to mid-1980s, having just missed out on what Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Doomsday was all about.
You're probably more familiar with The Triplets, even though you may not remember much, if anything, about them.
If your older than 30, I feel for you.
What all age groups have in common is that it's either really hard or downright impossible to relate to Dallas being a feared franchise to the rest of the NFL.
But yes, you're still a fan regardless.
Ever paid to go see Dallas play at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas?
Chances are good that you have not, and I can't blame you, but you're still a fan.
I can't understand why this new football palace still sells out each week, at least for Cowboys games. The team is barely above .500 at home and the price tag to get in is staggering, unless you don't plan to eat or drink anything.
I still feel for those who paid to go watch Jason Garrett blow a 27-3 second half lead over Detroit in 2011. Maybe you were there and maybe you weren't—but wow.
That was no isolated incident either.
The Cowboys just aren't a very good football team and the problems start at the very top of the organization.
There's high school football that's much more affordable and entertaining in the state of Texas. Wear the Cowboys jersey to one of those games and call it a weekend. The 'Boys will still be on the tube after all.
Attending Cowboys games requires both money and/or confidence.
How many fans remain with both?
When I say "anxiety", I'm referring more to the medical term than being anxious due to anticipation of a positive experience.
Yes, I was anxious for days preceding the 1992 NFC Championship Game between Dallas and San Francisco, but that was a huge game that I had only seen Dallas lose previously. It was also an indicator of a really good football team too.
Lately, Dallas creates anxiety within its fanbase because fans know their team is likely to lose each week regardless of the opponent.
True, Dallas has had a couple of big victories within recollection, but it's a small number and the disappointment factor has become so predictable that expectations have actually dropped.
Now every game for the Cowboys is that same 1992 NFC Championship Game, but the stakes are nowhere near as high. Sure, Dallas could beat a winless team from Kansas City back in 2009, but did the Cowboys really need overtime to do it?
Yeah, the Cowboys are aimless and those expecting gratification from this team each week are either optimists or delusional. The rest of us realize that there's no mustard on this hot dog so simply chomp it down and hope that indigestion doesn't follow a few hours later.
This offseason marks the official end of easily the worst defensive era in Dallas history, courtesy of the 3-4 debacle.
Cowboys fans endured eight seasons in this antiquated scheme that the franchise never really stocked very well. Both the defensive line and the safeties never seemed to be an ideal fit and without outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, I can only imagine how much worse it actually could have been.
Sometimes it's best to get back to your roots.
New defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin arrives to reinstall the 4-3 scheme that helped write a pretty glamorous history for the Cowboys.
Whether it was Doomsday throughout the 1970s or the tremendously quick and deep defensive units of the 1990s, a true Dallas fan has to feel pretty good about a system that the Cowboys are better positioned to succeed in.
I'll never understand the idea that 300-pound defensive end Jay Ratliff was an effective nose guard.
The 3-4 wasted a lot of time and probably some careers too.
Hopefully, the 4-3 can make defense a strength for the Cowboys sooner than later. If this happens, history shows that some good things become possible.
Never before have the Cowboys moved so far away from running the football than they have under the lousy offensive administration of Jason Garrett, which is another era seemingly behind us now.
For a franchise that's boasted the likes of Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett, Herschel Walker and numerous other running backs over the years, it's ridiculous that the Cowboys can't find a 1,000-yard rusher anymore.
A true Dallas fan realizes that running the ball is the most effective offensive attack, and I don't care whose stats indicate otherwise. I also don't buy into the idea that the NFL is a ''passing league'' now as opposed to before, whenever that was.
Football has always been about passing and running. Otherwise it would be something close to rugby.
The Cowboys have to run the football better—a lot better. Whether or not this is on the horizon remains to be seen, but the truth is simply that no offensive balance means no Super Bowl.
It's OK to place some blame on quarterback Tony Romo, but then you have to acknowledge everything that he does that's much more positive.
You can be a fan of the Cowboys and not like Romo, but I simply caution you in leaving your opinion so shallow.
I won't say that a true Cowboys fan necessarily believes in Romo, but I will say that an educated fan definitely does is a fan of his.
For each full season Romo has lined up under center, Garrett's ''passing circus'' has been on full display. For the first couple of years, it seemed to work rather well, but you might recall that Dallas ran the ball better as the last decade was winding down. Marion Barber was still young and healthy and Dallas had better balance and a more multi-dimensional offense.
Romo has had nothing of the sort since 2009, at the most recent, and he's never had an offensive line that rivals what other quarterbacks like New England's Tom Brady, Indianapolis' Peyton Manning or others have had over the years.
A quarterback who's on the run and who's has been injured as often as Romo generally ends up with the kind of career that David Carr had, at least when he was starting for Houston over 10 years ago.
Without Romo, the Cowboys would easily have been in position to draft one of the younger quarterbacks to enter the NFL over the last few seasons. Instead, Romo gets bad Cowboys teams to the doorstep of the postseason just about every year.
Romo's ability and talent will be placed under the microscope more than ever in 2013. If he has the blocking and running game that he should, then look out.
If not, you already know what to expect as a Cowboys fan.
There's no need to review the history of Jason Garrett's arrival in Big D as an offensive coordinator with virtually no coaching experience in 2007.
I suppose the same is true of his extremely tepid record as a head coach since 2010.
Garrett has never displayed the kind of leadership qualities that have marked many other successful head coaches. Granted, guys like Jimmy Johnson, Bill Parcells and even Tom Landry were unquestioned leaders who left nobody wondering who's in charge of what—and those three names represent the top coaches in Cowboys' history.
But looking around today at coaches like Jim and John Harbaugh, Sean Payton, Mike Tomlin and Pete Carroll, can you identify anything that Garrett shares in common with those names, aside from perhaps previous playing experience?
Sorry, but I can't, and I'm talking about leadership persona more so than Xs and Os.
I don't think anybody doubts Garrett's intelligence, myself included. But there are all kinds of people in the world that are awfully smart despite not having true leadership ability.
Yes, I realize that owner Jerry Jones has created a real mess for Garrett and he's been doing so since slapping him with the ornamental interim tag following the midseason dismissal of Wade Phillips in 2010.
Still, Garrett knew what Jones was going to be like and it sure doesn't seem like he was prepared for the experience any more than he's prepared to lead.
If Garrett had truly been ready to be the man, as opposed to the ''annointed one'', we would hear much less from Jones each and every week of our lives. Garrett would have made this happen and would have simply dared Jones to fire him.
Instead, mainly because of his inexperience, Garrett has let Jones bully him. Garrett isn't perceived as much of anything but a guy standing around with a headset now—and he really only has himself to blame.
The comparisons between late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones grow by the minute. While these two really didn't share a whole lot in common, there was one major quality that still looms to this day for both men.
Jones' purchase of the Cowboys was controversial, much like many other things he has done in the NFL. But while success came early and often, the moment that Jone's ego got the best of him, he inadvertently torpedoed the franchise, beginning with his getting sucker-punched by Jimmy Johnson following back-to-back Super Bowl wins in the early 1990s.
What has transpired since Johnson's influence completely evaporated is pretty lame.
But wasn't this true of the franchise at the time Jones rushed in and bought the Cowboys? Things were old, stale, slow, etc. Dallas wasn't a good team at all. Without Jones and Johnson riding in and pulling off the Walker trade of 1989, who knows how the last quarter-century would have turned out?
No, the Cowboys aren't as poor as they were in 1988, but the lack of qualified management becomes more obvious each year the Cowboys fail to win as much as a playoff game.
Nothing promises that the end of this trend is near—and the guy steering the bus is Jones.
For as bad as Davis' last years as a pro football executive were, he did manage to get the Silver and Black to the Super Bowl as recently as 2002. It's been longer since Jones has pulled this off in Dallas.
Davis was also always involved with the Raiders' success over a much longer time than Jones. The former actually coached his team while the latter really seems to want to, but apparently won't go there.
Time catches up to all of us in many ways. When it does, the key is to know when it's time to move on to something else, or simply to re-evaluate exactly what you're doing and why.
I'm not suggesting that Jones sell the Cowboys, but I will echo the sentiments of thousands of Cowboys fans who truly believe that it's time for Jones to step down in favor of a proven general manager like the one Davis used to be. Davis, however, actually grew up in football and knew more about the game from a business standpoint than Jones.
In other words, Davis helped build the modern-day NFL from the ground up. Jones simply bought his way in.
A Cowboys fan is probably aware that without Johnson, Jones would likely have accomplished nothing as the king of the Dallas franchise.