Super Fandom

Super Fandom

As this year’s Super Bowl approaches, I have a confession to make: Growing up, I was a Dallas Cowboys fan.

In Connecticut!

It started in the early ’90s, right when the ’boys were getting good again. But I wasn’t a bandwagoner. I had a hereditary claim: My dad was born and raised in Dallas, and he would often watch the games on Sundays, slowly sipping a Coors.

For seven-year-old me, the Cowboys’ resurgence was perfectly timed. I watched them turn things around in ’91 before getting routed in that year’s playoffs, then witnessed what felt like fate the following season as they marched to victory in Super Bowl XXVII. Destiny seemed double the next year as they won it all again. The year after that, I watched, mouth agape, as they got booted during a mud pit classic, but the year after that, I whooped and hollered like an actual cowboy as they gritted out another league championship.

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Football fans of the era will know that, over the next several years, “America’s Team” did what so many dynasties have: They crumbled, in this case slowly, agonizingly. The key players got creaky, the play calling cautious. 15 Sundays a year (plus one Thanksgiving Thursday), I watched what felt like a video on loop. Somewhere around the 500th time Emmitt Smith’s stiffening knees plodded straight up the middle for two or three yards on a third-and-more, the Cowboys—and football—lost me. By the end of the millennium, I was even trying to talk my Giants-loving friends out of their fandom, coolly counting the benefits of refusing to let football pummel my mood every fall like a defensive line converging on a poor aging running back ordered once more unto the breach.

And for the next two-plus decades, you really couldn’t find me freaking out over football. Sure, I caught a game here and there. Maybe it was on at the bar. Maybe a friend was having a Super Bowl party. I do remember the Titans—the 2000 Super Bowl runners-up, who came a yard shy of tying on the last play, which admittedly got my pulse up—and I was of course vaguely aware of Belichick and Brady et al. I knew there was plenty of good football out there, but I wasn’t willing to muddle through all the boring football to find it, and I never again felt like a fan of the game.

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Until a few weeks ago—because, after a certain point in this year’s playoffs, there simply was no boring football. The first sign was a catastrophic finish for—who else?—the Cowboys. I didn’t catch the game, which was the tightest that week, but I saw the aftermath: a flood of shocked football fans and commentators questioning, often gleefully, a poor last-second decision that let the clock run out on the team’s season. Then, the next week, I happened to be at a bar airing the Rams-Buccaneers game, which had the Rams up 24 before an unlikely series of events leveled the score with less than 45 seconds left. That, it turned out, was just enough time for one last shock: a winning drive by the Rams.

The twists and turns were unbelievable, but they weren’t outliers. The very next game, between the Bills and the Chiefs, was an equally legendary thriller featuring three lead changes plus a last-second tie in the final two minutes of regulation, all followed by a walk-off touchdown in overtime. The other games that day were even tighter, one of them pivoting around two of the rarest feats in football: a blocked field goal and a blocked punt-for-touchdown. Then the next week’s games, determining who would go to the Super Bowl, were just as close, decided by three points apiece. Indeed, three points was the margin for five of the six games leading to Super Bowl Sunday, which pits the Rams vs. the Bengals, a team 1990s me thought would never, ever make it to the end.

Do I care about the Rams? No. Do I care about the Bengals? Nope. Am I going to watch the big game? Absolutely, and if it’s as good as the games that led to it, I might just be freaking out.

Written by Dan Mims. Image by

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