It's Dallas week, and yes, despite the poor records of both teams and the general malaise that has set in at Redskins Park, beating the Cowboys (sorry, Cowgirls) still matters.
With the 2010 Washington Redskins' season officially off of life support, nature is left to run its course. Mercifully, the holiday season is just the kind of pick-me-up many Redskins fans need to carry them through yet another miserable December of football.
But wait a minute.
IT'S DALLAS WEEK!
Now, I won't go so far as to suggest that you can "throw the records out the window" in this game, since we have pretty much thrown our record out the window already ... from a speeding car ... in traffic. But this game still matters. The rivalry between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys (who we'll subsequently refer to as "Cowgirls") is very real and means a great deal to fans despite what has transpired as of late this season for us. Here are a few things to keep in mind before the Wave of Apathy washes you all the way out to February.
No. 1: One Great Rivalry Game Is Remembered Far More Than One Awful Season
When Troy Aikman and Jimmy Johnson were cutting their teeth in the 1989 season, things were very bad for them. They couldn't buy a win. Yet in early November, they came to Washington and left with the only win they would get all season. Wouldn't you know it, I STILL have to hear about that win over 20 years later? The Redskins finished 10-6 that year, and while it is hard to play the what-if game this many years later, it is certainly possible that we would have made the playoffs if we had taken care of business that day against a winless Cowgirls team. That lone win in 1989 is a source of pride for many Cowgirls fans.
And you know what? I like that. While a win by the Redskins this week may not be remembered for 20 years as the win that kept our rival out of the postseason, it can still become a source of pride, if even for a brief period. Our win over Dallas in Week 1 was not a great game, but a memorable pounding of Dallas in front of their own fans this week would provide a positive vibe that would resonate for at least a short while.
No. 2: That One Cowgirls Fan We Know
Don't act like it's just me ... we ALL have to work with at least one Cowgirls fan. We ALL have to deal with at least one Dallas fan around the holidays, whether it's a cousin, an in-law, or, worse, a spouse or sibling. Don't act like it doesn't matter who wins this game between you and THAT person. Because it does.
You might think that, with both teams having down years, that Dallas fan won't chirp at the Christmas dinner table. You'd be wrong to think that. They are chirpers. They live to chirp. So unless you want to wash down that Christmas turkey with a healthy serving of humble pie courtesy of your favorite Cowgirls fan, you might want to invest some heart and soul into this game on Sunday. (Am I actually suggesting that your emotional involvement in this game can make a difference? You bet I am.)
No. 3: You Hate Dallas
This one is self-explanatory.
No. 4: We Have a LOT of Work To Do In This Series
This one is painful to state, but necessary to remember: Dallas has a sizable advantage over Washington in the all-time series. I believe it is up to a 59-39-2 lead. We have not dominated even a single decade since the 1960s in this series. In the postseason, we are 2-0 against the Cowgirls, but the 20-game deficit in the win column is still a kick to the groin. We have started out the 2010s (is that pronounced "the twenty-tens"?) with a win and we need to keep the gas pedal on the floor here. We need a big decade to get back in this thing, and season sweeps are the only way to accomplish this.
No. 5: Jason Garrett vs. Wade Phillips
I have already had to hear from my friendly neighborhood Cowgirls fans that we only managed to scrape by a Wade Phillips-coached team and we stand no chance against the new Jason Garrett regime. Part of the beauty of a season sweep in 2010 is that we get to end one era and begin another with wins.
Coaching changes have played a part in the rivalry. Tom Landry got his final win against the Redskins in 1988. Joe Gibbs got his last win at RFK against the Cowgirls. Dave Campo rode into D.C. in 2002 in the season finale and gave up a game to the Redskins that broke an 11-game Cowgirls winning streak. George Allen always made sure to get the troops rallied a little more for Dallas games. I doubt the outcome of this game factors too heavily into the decision Jerry Jones makes regarding Jason Garrett's future -- unless we absolutely shellac them. One thing is for sure: I don't want Jason Garrett to WIN the permanent job in Dallas based on a big win against the Redskins. Let's establish our dominance over Jason Garrett now.
So let's review. Yes, I am encouraging you all to grasp at straws to find reasons to open yourself up to this week's Redskins game. But just remember ... beating Dallas DOES matter. We don't root for higher draft picks. We don't root for "good losses." We don't turn an apathetic heart to the Dallas-Washington rivalry. With just a little bit of momentum in the next few years, we can get this rivalry back on track.
And who knows. Maybe years from now, we will all be talking about the game that Ryan Torain broke out for 250 yards against Dallas to embarrass them at home on the back end of a season sweep. I could hang my season on that.