I look back and recall growing up watching football just about every Sunday. We never really watched college games on Saturdays, but the family always made time to catch the Buffalo Bills play on Sunday afternoons. Often times I would plop down on the couch with my father and enjoy homemade French onion dip.
I have to admit that my feelings on the Bills soured after their third Super Bowl loss in 1993 at Super Bowl XXVII. What I didn't realize at the time was that the feat of just getting to three championships in a row was an amazing accomplishment. Had I known then what I know now, I probably would have reacted much differently to that loss and appreciated the road the Bills had taken to get to the Super Bowl.
Much to the chagrin of friends and family, I abandoned the Bills for the team that beat them in that game, the Dallas Cowboys. Over the years I have only grown to love that team more, but have also tempered my love so that it does not rise to fanatical levels. I may have uttered a few impolite words at certain times when they have not played their best, but again, age and experience has brought me some level of maturity. It is just a game after all.
I have a short story to share regarding the Cowboys and how I passed along that tradition. As anyone who has read this blog in the past knows, my son Jackson was born in October of 2007 and passed away on November 26th. On November 29th, a Thursday, we held a wake for Jackson. Hundreds of people showed up to support our family in the loss. There was an amazing outpouring of love and support that evening and for weeks, months, and all the years since. However, the story tonight is not about that love, as beautiful and powerful and needed as it was.
It just so happened that the night of that wake, the Dallas Cowboys were playing a football game against the Green Bay Packers. Even with my love for the Cowboys, I obviously had much more important things on my mind that evening and didn't even remember that the game was on until we arrived home from the wake. It had been an exhausting evening and we did not want to sleep, knowing that in the morning we would have to bury our son. In what likely was an effort to distract ourselves from everything going on around us, we flipped the TV on and happened to hear that the Cowboys had won the game that night. I was pleased that my team had won, but nothing could have dampened the pain of that day.
The next thing is the real kicker though. When Jackson had passed, my reminded us that he was still with us, just like the stars are always there, even when they’re covered up by the clouds. From that moment on, we had (and still do) associated Jackson with stars. Anyone who has ever heard of the Cowboys knows that their logo is a giant blue and white star. As we saw the results of the game, my wife turned to me and said with a smile, “He was a Cowboys fan.” I like to think that the little star that we now had in heaven had wanted to bring a smile to our faces that night and managed to do just that, knowing that it was the hardest days and the time that we most needed some light in the darkness.
Since that time, we have decorated our home with stars to remind ourselves on a daily basis of Jackson. I have maintained my love for the Cowboys and when my now 4-year-old son Joshua “stole” the Cowboys fleece from our bed a little over a year ago, I didn't complain. We still have yet to see if Jackson and Joshua’s little sister will follow in their footsteps as Cowboys fans, but regardless, we still cheer for the Bills now, and their running back, #22, Fred JACKSON!