Nathan Hague

At the start of every NFL season, I remind myself to keep my expectations low for the Dallas Cowboys. That way, if they exceed my expectations, it’s a pleasant surprise and if they have another down year, I will have been better prepared.

When I turned on Thursday night’s season-opener between the Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I went in with as low expectations as I possibly could have. The Super Bowl champs were after all, returning all 22 starts including a quarterback who most people consider to be the G.O.A.T. The Cowboys on the other hand had a historically bad defense a year ago and question marks surround how well quarterback Dak Prescott will do in 2021 in his return from a season-ending injury in 2020.

But then something happened.

Not only were the Cowboys hanging in with the Bucs but the two teams exchanged leads one can make a strong case that the Cowboys should have won, but instead, a very poor night from the kicking game and the fact that the Cowboys left too much time on the clock for Tom Brady at the end resulted in the Cowboys starting of 0-1.

As the lead went back and forth, it was hard to prevent my expectations from doing the same and that’s just another microcosm of the Dallas Cowboys. They seem to always do way better than expected, get the fans’ hopes up high and break hearts again. It’s the type of heartbreak you wouldn’t wish on anybody.

And that brings me to another point – when I was watching Thursday’s game, I was holding a newborn – my baby girl who was born in July. I was thinking about how I hope she enjoys sports but I also don’t want to force them on her even though she’ll certainly be around them a lot. I thought about how I want her to have a childhood like mine in terms of sports. Growing up, I got to see the Cowboys win three Super Bowls, but it’s been nothing but heartache and disappointment since then. Do I really want to set that same thing up for my daughter?

Selfishly, I hope she grows up a Cowboys fan so we can bond over a victory and be there for each other after a loss but if she’s happier rooting for another team that doesn’t play with her emotions so much, (depending on what team that is), that’s what’s important because like every parent, but I definitely want my child to be happy.

I can also tell myself that maybe growing up a Cowboys fan won’t be too bad for her. Not to sound morbid, but Jerry Jones can only run the team for so much longer before his children take over and it’s hard to imagine they would do the amount of damage that their dad has. I’d like to think that after winning two straight Super Bowls, they’d have enough common sense to keep around the coach that got the team there.

I’ve mentioned several times in my column that sports help teach several life lessons and I hope my little girl will be able to learn those same lessons through sports.

Overall, I think I know what route is best – let her choose, within reason, since there are some wrong answers. I’ll try not to force sports on her but always make them available. I’m not going to promise to never try to sway her but if I do, it’s because it’s what I see as best for her and to help her avoid heartbreak. She will know to have one favorite team only (one per each sport) and that sports polygamy is a serious thing. My house won’t be a place to root for a team in the NFC East other than the Cowboys. I think the 49ers are also off limits and probably the Steelers and Patriots because of how many Super Bowls they have. We don’t need to make it that much harder for the Cowboys to catch up. When Brady is still playing at 55 years old, I’ll do my very best to encourage her to not root for him.

I’ll have to give it some more thought on what teams may or may not be acceptable for her to root for and that’s for sport across the board. In the meantime however, I’ll dress her in her Cowboys and Rangers onesies and maybe, just maybe, one day she will be a fan of America’s Team and we can enjoy our teams’ success together. Let’s just hope the Cowboys don’t break her heart the way they have ours in the last nearly-30 years.

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