After growing up among die-hard Cowboys' fans - who felt that the only reason the team lost was either because the refs were horrible or the other team cheated - I spent many years trying to learn how to become more objective in my feelings of my favorite team. Every time I picked Dallas to win, or do well in a season was because I truly felt it was going to happen.
Last night, two things happened to put my objectiveness to task. Number one, the Cowboys made a serious statement in not only defeated the reigning conference champion Chicago Bears, but by soundly beating them up, 34-10.
''They just came out and beat the crap out of us,'' Bears' defensive end Alex Brown said.
Does that mean this team is actually good? I know I picked them to go to the playoffs, and I also know it's only the third game of the season, but remember that this team is still missing their #2 receiver (Terry Glenn), their #1 cornerback (Terrance Newman - although he did play a limited number of snaps), their #2 pass rusher (Greg Ellis) and their starting nose tackle (Jason Ferguson). Then add the fact that the Bears are almost unbeatable at Soldier Field, have perhaps one of the top two defenses in the league and a special-teams unit that is second-to-none, and you can not help but realize how much of a whupping the Cowboys laid on them.
To make it worst for the Monsters of the Midway, the final score could have, and perhaps should have been even worse. And that leads me to my second issue.
Last night's game may well have been the worst officiated game I have ever witnessed. Fortunately for Dallas, the horrible calls (or non-calls) that went against the Cowboys in the first half (and there were three very glaring officiating errors) seemed to even out in the second half. Regardless of who got the upper hand, the referee's were horrible. In the first half alone, two plays that resulted (or should have) in first downs were called back for what could only be considered phantom infractions. Then, at the very end of the half - when the clock should have been stopped for change of possession - the referee gave the signal to wind the clock (to keep it running). After he realized his error, he stopped the clock, but it was too late by then and time expired. I have no idea why he didn't allow those three seconds to be replayed (which would have been the right thing to do). Those three seconds would have given the Cowboys an opportunity to attempt a 54-yard field goal. Nick Folk, the Cowboys rookie kicker, has a strong enough leg. Also, considering Chicago already blocked one field goal earlier in the game, perhaps it would have given the Bears a chance to block that kick and score as well.
If the Cowboys would not have won - or if it had been a closer final score - perhaps my comments would sound like an excuse. But on a day where the San Diego's Padres' Milton Bradley tore his anterior cruciate ligament after being incited by the first-base umpire's seemingly outrageous behavior, I am beginning to discover that there is a big problem in the major sports. For whatever reason, in the NFL - where millions are made and lost in the blink of an eye (or a drop of a pass) - the only non-full time employees are the officials.
Now certain people will tell you that instant replay has caused this lax in officiating by making the refs look over their shoulders. I don't buy it. Make these guys full-time, send them to a more intense training program and start allowing more replays to be challenged. Furthermore, if the outcome of the challenge is "inconclusive", then whoever made the challenge should NOT be charged a time-out. After all, if the video and the ref can't figure out what happened, why should the team be penalized?
But I have to say, it was sweet watching last night's game with a couple of big Bears' fans. So maybe I'm a homer after all. At least I'm consistent.